235 books directly related to murders 📚

All 235 murder books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of Third Policeman

Third Policeman

By Flann O'Brien

Why this book?

An incredible book, disturbing, harsh, and – of course – really, really funny, The Third Policeman is the great dark surreal novel. A simple story of a man who visits a police station, it soon roots itself in a Tristram Shandy-esque mire of absurdity and confusion with its own sense of seeping dread. All Flann O’Brien is superb, but this is the fiercest of all pancakes.

From the list:

The best books for expanding the mind through pleasure and strangeness

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Book cover of Tombland

Tombland

By C.J. Sansom

Why this book?

At the time of writing, this is believed to be the last in the Shardlake novels and I, for one, am already missing them. I have loved every one of the books in the series, following the adventures of the lawyer/crime solver Matthew Shardlake and his assistants Jack Barak and Nicholas Overton. The author has a real way of bringing the Tudor age to life and as a reader you are instantly transported into the 1500s with Sansom’s descriptive and quite brilliant writing. As a general recommendation I could have picked any of the Shardlake novels but under the heading…

From the list:

The best historical fiction books that sent me straight to Google to find out more

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Book cover of The Stranger

The Stranger

By Albert Camus

Why this book?

The 1942 in-depth examination of a man accused of murder or was it self-defense? The book shows how complex and entangled the truth around crime can be and how quickly society turns on those charged with homicide. It raises timeless questions that we struggle with today with the media and talk shows playing such a large role in current high-profile criminal cases.

From the list:

The best books on the psychology and emotions behind human violence

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Book cover of In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote

Why this book?

The seminal true crime book, Capote’s self-proclaimed “nonfiction novel” was my first true crime read, and one I return to again and again. Capote used the elements of fiction to craft a compelling story about a horrific true crime. Every true crime fan should read this book. (Bonus: for new theories of the case, see Gary McAvoy’s recent book, And Every Word is True).

From the list:

The best books about true crime and the dark side of human nature

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Book cover of Fatal Vision: A True Crime Classic

Fatal Vision: A True Crime Classic

By Joe McGinniss

Why this book?

A highly controversial 1983 book about Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald who was accused of murdering his wife and two children in their home in 1970. Initially, MacDonald hired McGuiniss to prove his innocence, but the author eventually changed his mind about the physician’s guilt. He was convicted and the book underscored the perils of writers getting too close to their subjects, especially when they're criminals.

From the list:

The best books on the psychology and emotions behind human violence

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Book cover of The World of Lore: Wicked Mortals

The World of Lore: Wicked Mortals

By Aaron Mahnke

Why this book?

The Lore series, based on the World of Lore podcast, is a wonderful collection of the strange, bizarre, and creepy. This particular book focuses on people who gained fame through their disturbing hobbies and unpleasant predilections: serial killers, criminals, psychopaths, and other associated weirdos. I've always been drawn to collections like these, and this is one of the best. Check out the others in the series too.

From the list:

The best nonfiction books that read like a novel

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Book cover of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower

Richard III and the Princes in the Tower

By A.J. Pollard

Why this book?

There are so many books about these two boys that one could be forgiven for not reading any of them. But, if you are going to read one make it this one. Pollard knows what he is talking about because he has a background of authoritative historical study second to none. What you’ll find in this book is as near as anyone is going to get to a balanced account. Forget all the dark myths and whitewashes of Richard III and just read this book.

From the list:

The best books on the Wars of the Roses from a historian and author

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Book cover of Murder Times Six: The True Story of the Wells Gray Murders

Murder Times Six: The True Story of the Wells Gray Murders

By Alan R. Warren

Why this book?

Simply put, I recently read Murder Times Six and was drawn to the parallels in my own book.  In Alan R. Warren’s book, he details the slaughter of six family members, the intense investigation, and the subsequent prosecution of the killer. Warren goes a step further by exploring the motivation behind the killer, and the possibility of his eventual release from prison.  

At the end of Murder Times Six, the reader is left with the ultimate question. Should a killer be released from prison? It’s a heartbreaking story, but it’s also a must-read. “He is the monster under the…

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The most detailed books about killers

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Book cover of In the Name of the Children: An FBI Agent's Relentless Pursuit of the Nation's Worst Predators

In the Name of the Children: An FBI Agent's Relentless Pursuit of the Nation's Worst Predators

By Jeffrey L. Rinek, Marilee Strong

Why this book?

This is an excellent reading about a former FBI agent not giving up on their search to find predators. I truly honor this agent for how he never gave up on the search. From my former experience as a Special Agent with The Drug Enforcement Administration, the writers did a thorough job to focus on how the FBI Agents unselfishly dedicated long investigative hours to target the predators of children. The writers described how the FBI agent’s moral beliefs and his dedication to helping the sexually abused children; perseverance, and creative innovative investigative techniques that enable him to find the…
From the list:

The best books on true crime and corruption

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Book cover of The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself

By Joe Abercrombie

Why this book?

I’ve saved my all-time favourite for last. The First Law trilogy blew my mind. It shattered my preconceptions about what fantasy could or should be. I was hooked, glued, nailed to each character and scenario and battle, and felt like I was right there in the circle holding a shield. The First Law has everything. It’s gritty, it’s raw, it’s comical, it’s in your face where you can feel the greasiness of the blood, smell the sour breath and taste the dirt on your tongue. There are nasty little fights tooth and nail in the mud. There is heroic single…

From the list:

The best fights in fantasy: five authors who have mastered the art of writing fight scenes

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Book cover of And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank

And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank

By Steve Oney

Why this book?

This book is absolutely fascinating to me. When I write, I strive to include painstakingly detailed accounts of the crimes that were never known to the general public, and this book goes into every minute detail regarding the 1913 murder of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan in Atlanta, Georgia. Mary’s body was discovered in the basement of Atlanta’s National Pencil Factory, and it culminated in the conviction and death sentence of Leo Frank. Frank’s death sentence was commuted, but he was ultimately kidnapped and lynched two months after the commutation.  I considered this a powerful example of investigative journalism with largely unknown…

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The most detailed books about killers

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Book cover of The Onion Field

The Onion Field

By Joseph Wambaugh

Why this book?

As a high school senior planning a career in law enforcement, I was mesmerized by Joseph Wambaugh’s account of the kidnapping of two Los Angeles police officers in 1963, and the murder of one of them.  Wambaugh unsympathetically details the stories of the two men convicted in the case, while at the same time humanizing the officer who survived and suffered from humiliation and guilt again and again throughout seven years of court proceedings against the men who kidnapped him and murdered his partner. The courtroom dialogue is verbatim, and to me, that leads to a feeling that the reader…

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The most detailed books about killers

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Book cover of The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime

By Judith Flanders

Why this book?

This is an amazing book that serves as a template for academic writers seeking to reach a wider readership. Flanders delves into not only Victorian Britain’s obsessive fascination with homicide and its detection, but also how newspaper editors and reporters, playwrights, and novelists benefited from and were influenced by particularly gruesome crimes with compelling victims and perpetrators. The book incorporates academic scholarship and recalls some of the most famous crimes of the era and explores their impact on Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Robert Louis Stevenson, and other cultural producers.   

From the list:

The best books on the history of murder

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Book cover of The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder

The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder

By Daniel Stashower

Why this book?

Similar to my second choice, this American study explores the impact of a sensational unsolved death on early Victorian New York and America in general. In 1841 Marie Rogers, an attractive young woman who worked in a tobacco shop, was found dead in the Hudson River, suspected to be a victim of murder. The case was well covered in the press and exposed weaknesses in the city’s system of policing.  The author details how Edgar Allen Poe furthered early detective fiction in his story The Mystery Marie Roger, which although set in Paris borrowed heavily from the New York…

From the list:

The best books on the history of murder

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Book cover of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

By Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Why this book?

This is an intriguing murder mystery set in the evocative Winter landscape of the Silesia Region of Poland, close to the Czech Border. When Janina’s two pet dogs go missing, a murderous chain of events begins. The eccentric and feisty Janina is funny and warm and cantankerous – I love how she stands up for what she believes in, taking on her neighbours and haranguing the police and bureaucrats.

From the list:

The best books with brilliant old women as heroines

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Book cover of Under a Dark Sky

Under a Dark Sky

By Lori Rader-Day

Why this book?

Eden Wallace’s husband is dead and she’s deeply phobic about the dark, but she’s going to take the northern Michigan vacation he planned for them anyway — at a "sky park" where there’s no light pollution at night to keep you from seeing the spectacular starry skies. The dream turns into a nightmare when she becomes the prime suspect in a grotesque murder and subsequently suffers unexpected torments.  Rader-Day delivers a fiendishly clever plot and there are truly superb twists along the way. This is finely wrought crime fiction with great psychological depth. The dialogue is natural all the way…

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The best books about conquering adversity

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Book cover of If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood

If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood

By Gregg Olsen

Why this book?

If You Tell by Gregg Olsen is a true evil event where he explains the story of a kind and loving mother as described by her community; but they failed to see the evil that Shelly Knotek was torturing and murdering her friends and relatives for the fun of it, while her three daughters watched in horror. Abused by their parents, the sisters watched the victims begging for their lives as their mother tortured them for the fun of it in cold blood, murdering them. The sisters were frightened that they might be next to die at any moment in…

From the list:

The best books on true crime and corruption

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Book cover of The Perfect Father: The True Story of Chris Watts, His All-American Family, and a Shocking Murder

The Perfect Father: The True Story of Chris Watts, His All-American Family, and a Shocking Murder

By John Glatt

Why this book?

This book is about the horrific murder of Chris Watts' wife and children. Many details of the case give the reader a birds-eye view of the situation, without dramatizing the events. Living in Southern California, I remember hearing the news about these murders and cannot understand how someone could do it. Such a sad story.

From the list:

The best books on true crime and corruption

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Book cover of My Dark Places: An L.A. Crime Memoir

My Dark Places: An L.A. Crime Memoir

By James Ellroy

Why this book?

This 1996 memoir reads like much of Ellroy’s fiction: hard-boiled and from-the-gut. The author’s mother was raped and murdered in 1958, the perpetrator never found. He recalls his troubled childhood and adolescence and a nascent writing career spurred by his obsession with LA’s notorious Black Dahlia case. Between these episodes, Ellroy recounts his efforts, 38 years on, and with the aid of a private investigator, to find an answer to the mystery of his mother’s death. 

From the list:

The best books on unsolved murders

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Book cover of Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncensored Story of the JonBenet Murder and the Grand Jury's Search for the Truth

Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncensored Story of the JonBenet Murder and the Grand Jury's Search for the Truth

By Lawrence Schiller

Why this book?

This is the most detailed account we’re likely to get of what remains an enduring mystery: the 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey in her home in the affluent town of Boulder, Colorado. From the beginning, police and all other observers were baffled, although the victim’s parents remained under a cloud of suspicion. An added bizarre element was the mother’s grooming of her daughter to compete in child beauty pageants.

From the list:

The best books on unsolved murders

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Book cover of The Wicked Boy: An Infamous Murder in Victorian London

The Wicked Boy: An Infamous Murder in Victorian London

By Kate Summerscale

Why this book?

Although Kate Summerscale is best known for The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, this is a book to read for those interested in mental illness and crime. The boy of the title is indeed a child – one who killed his mother and entered the asylum at the age of eighteen. The influence of Victorian social media – the penny dreadfuls and sensational journalism – feels relevant as today’s youth are lambasted for similar fascinations. The story ends far from Broadmoor and provides hope of recovery from even the most desperate and tragic situations.

From the list:

The best books on the history of English mental health

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Book cover of Death at La Fenice

Death at La Fenice

By Donna Leon

Why this book?

One of the things I love about a great mystery is the author’s ability to open doors to an unfamiliar world and, within a few pages, make the reader feel right at home in it. Donna Leon is such an author with her Inspector Brunetti series that takes place in contemporary Venice. With a virtuoso’s feel for language, nuance, and pacing, Leon leads the reader on a gondola ride through both the bright lights and murky canals of Venetian society and culture, and into the shadows of the opera world, through the perceptive eyes of her ethical, food- and family-loving…
From the list:

The best mysteries in the world of classical music

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Book cover of The Fatal Passion of Alma Rattenbury

The Fatal Passion of Alma Rattenbury

By Sean O’Connor

Why this book?

It is the best true crime book I have read in recent years. It is a gripping murder story and tragic romance, and a terrific biography of a thoroughly modern woman trapped between the freedoms earned on the one hand by women’s critical participation in two world wars, and the suffocating conservatism of the 1920s and 1920s. For challenging the status quo Alma Rattenbury paid the heaviest price. On a broader note, this book offers a fascinating slice of women’s lives in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War.
From the list:

The best books on women’s history

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Book cover of The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Ninetenth-Century New York

The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Ninetenth-Century New York

By Patricia Cline Cohen

Why this book?

When I decided to write a novel about a 19th-century prostitute, I of course wanted to read as much as possible about demi-mondaines in that era. Cohen’s narrative nonfiction book is engrossing, and while it focuses on one woman, it also gives a fascinating inside look at what life was like for prostitutes in 1830s New York City.

And, in a stranger than fiction connection to my novel, the murderer of Helen Jewett—Richard P. Robinson—who was sensationally acquitted, moved to Nacogdoches, Texas to start a new life. He married Atala Hotchkiss and died of an unknown fever at a young…

From the list:

The best books about 19th century prostitutes

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Book cover of Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing

By Delia Owens

Why this book?

I’ve had a few readers tell me that my novel reminds me of this book. In fact, they did come out around the same time, but I think Owens’ book is in a class all its own. Her lyrical language combined with the unique backdrop and premise of the novel give it a distinctly southern gothic flare that we need more of in literature. 

From the list:

The best in southern gothic with a heart

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Book cover of Easy Motion Tourist

Easy Motion Tourist

By Leye Adenle

Why this book?

Visceral, immediate, and engrossing, Adenle’s debut novel features two main characters embroiled in a murder in Lagos. British journalist Guy Collins, an alien in a dangerous, fast-paced city is implicated in a gruesome crime. Amaka, a woman who has devoted herself to the protection of the city’s working girls, speaks for him, hoping that her intervention will be re-payed by Collins in the form of global publicity for her campaign against the people traffickers and body-parts smugglers. Both out of their depth, at great peril, and at the mercy of Nigeria’s mega-city and its huge cast of characters, they find…
From the list:

The best crime thrillers set in Africa

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Book cover of The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave-Robbery in 1830s London

The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave-Robbery in 1830s London

By Sarah Wise

Why this book?

An exploration of the suspected murder of an Italian child in London that along with the murders of Burke and Hare, changed how bodies are supplied for medical teaching. Set in London in the 1830s it is a factual look at the way cadavers were supplied for medical teaching at that point in history.

From the list:

The best books on the supply of cadavers and what they can teach us

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Book cover of The Murders at White House Farm: Jeremy Bamber and the Killing of His Family

The Murders at White House Farm: Jeremy Bamber and the Killing of His Family

By Carol Ann Lee

Why this book?

Of all the books written about the massacre of the Bamber/Caffell family in August 1985, none captures the sadness and tragedy of the family dynamic as Lee has here. She delves deep into the troubled lives of June and Neville Bamber and their adopted children Jeremy and Sheila. It’s an extraordinary case – a real puzzle. I don’t actually agree with Lee’s (apparent) assumption of Jeremy Bamber’s guilt – the seven pages of police surmise at the end of her book have a number of holes that undermine the plausibility of their case. In my view, a retrial should have…
From the list:

The best true crime books that show fact is FAR odder than fiction

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Book cover of The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper

The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper

By Robin Jarossi

Why this book?

Jarossi’s debut features deeply moving vignettes of young women with troubled early lives, who, in the West London of the 1960s, fell into the path of a still-unknown serial killer. He was heartlessly dubbed Jack The Stripper by the national newspapers. Jarossi vividly recreates the tawdry workings of the vice trade – the underbelly of Swinging London. He rightly focuses on the victims – and restores to them the dignity of which their killer (and those who covered the case originally) deprived them.
From the list:

The best true crime books that show fact is FAR odder than fiction

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Book cover of Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders

By Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry

Why this book?

Access is one key to writing a good non-fiction book, though not at the expense of independence. Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting lawyer who put Charles Manson and his gang of maniacs away, in the 1960s, allowing him, with his co-writer, to tell this sensational tale with an insider’s authority.

From the list:

The best true crime biographies to put you in the mind of a criminal

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Book cover of Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood

By William J. Mann

Why this book?

This page-turner dives into the underbelly of old Hollywood and the circumstances surrounding the lurid and still unsolved 1922 murder of actor and director William Desmond Taylor, with more than a splash of sex, drugs, and decadence spilling over everything. It breaks new ground in what was already a well-documented case.
From the list:

The best true crime of the Roaring Twenties

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Book cover of For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz Age Chicago

For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz Age Chicago

By Simon Baatz

Why this book?

A chilling account of the era’s most notorious murder, the 1924 thrill-killing of fourteen-year-old Bobbie Franks by University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two brilliant young men… who just wanted to know how it felt to murder someone. The case inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film Rope.
From the list:

The best true crime of the Roaring Twenties

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Book cover of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective

By Kate Summerscale

Why this book?

This riveting book covers the gruesome discovery of a murder in a Georgian house in the sleepy village of Road in Wiltshire. That someone has died is awful enough but realising that the murderer is a member of the household brings fresh horrors. The author meticulously follows the crime and subsequent investigation, sticking strictly to the facts while using her imagination to recreate the tense atmosphere while bringing the characters to life. Unputdownable.

From the list:

The best and bloodiest true crimes that inspired fiction

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Book cover of If I Run

If I Run

By Terri Blackstock

Why this book?

Who else loves a good “Fall-guy + I’ve-been-framed-for-murder” suspense novel? Kinda like The Fugitive movie with Harrison Ford? 

Casey Cox has been framed for the murder of her boyfriend and is made the target of a national manhunt. I finished reading If I Run at almost three in the morning—it was that riveting. Though the main plot deals with highly emotional elements (PTSD, living on the run, etc.), the subplots are equally as gut-wrenching. Read this book and you will be left with wide eyes and—possibly—a gaping mouth.

From the list:

The best suspense novels with emotionally intelligent characters

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Book cover of The Kind Worth Killing

The Kind Worth Killing

By Peter Swanson

Why this book?

Domestic Thrillers: I love Harlan Coben and Gillian Flynn and a half-dozen other authors that pen domestic thrillers, but I picked up Swanson’s Eight Perfect Murders last summer, loved it, and began snarfing up his other novels, of which my favorite is The Kind Worth Killing. It’s like strangers on a plane instead of strangers on a train (nuff said). Swanson certainly is a fan of classic mystery authors (Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith, etc.) as well as Alfred Hitchcock films. He’s got another half-dozen books in play, all of which deserve your immediate attention.

From the list:

The best books in various thriller subgenres

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Book cover of Murder in Mykonos: An Inspector Kaldis Mystery

Murder in Mykonos: An Inspector Kaldis Mystery

By Jeffrey Siger

Why this book?

In Book 11, Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, fresh from Athens to the picturesque Greek island, must find the perpetrators of a gruesome murder of a young woman found dead in a rural church. Siger, via his blunt investigator Kaldis, is an expert in sprinkling the beautiful Greek landscape with notes of suspense and mystery, and, like the earlier entries in this attractive series, Murder in Mykonos does not disappoint.

From the list:

The best books for a virtual odyssey in ancient and modern Greece

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Book cover of In the Woods

In the Woods

By Tana French

Why this book?

Many thrillers go down like fast food – enjoyable in the moment, but instantly forgettable. Tana French’s novels are more like rich feasts, none more so than her debut, a novel that starts out with a compelling mystery and slowly descends into the psychological hell of a particularly clever horror movie. Uncompromising in its bold choices but always tender in how it treats its wounded, fractured but all-too-human characters. There are many reasons Tana French has gained such a fervent cult following, and all of them can be found in this book.

From the list:

The best thought-provoking thrillers

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Book cover of The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial

The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial

By Maggie Nelson

Why this book?

The first time I read this book, I had the whole-body sensation of having my mind simultaneously read and fed. Nelson put words to fantasies and fears I’d never thought to vocalize, while also functioning as an educator, leaving me with an entirely new understanding of true crime as a media sensation. This is a memoir about the process of writing her book of poems, Jane. Jane chronicles the story of her aunt, who was murdered as a young college student, while The Red Parts goes into Nelson's personal process and how the investigation of a murdered family member…

From the list:

The best books for poets who want to write fiction

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Book cover of Murder and the Making of English CSI

Murder and the Making of English CSI

By Ian Burney, Neil Pemberton

Why this book?

This is an important resource for anyone interested in the history of twentieth-century forensic practice, because it explains the rise of forensic science as a discipline separate from forensic medicine. Forensic scientists, based in laboratories, analyse trace evidence found at crime scenes, while forensic pathologists focus on the dead body in the mortuary. An analysis of the 1953 serial murders committed by John Christie at his infamous London address, 10 Rillington Place, shows how murder investigations had by then become team efforts centred on the crime scene itself. 

From the list:

The best books on the history of forensic medicine

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Book cover of Flowers Over the Inferno

Flowers Over the Inferno

By Ilaria Tuti, Ekin Oklap

Why this book?

Set in a vividly described location in the Swiss Alps, Flowers Over the Inferno features a most refreshing protagonist. Teresa Battaglia is in her sixties, stocky, diabetic, and extremely grumpy. What’s not to like? The plot is dark, the location stunning, and the crimes intriguing, but it’s Teresa’s character that made it a stand-out book for me. 

From the list:

The best books that are both dark and funny

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Book cover of The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient

By Alex Michaelides

Why this book?

Michaelides’ psychological thriller, The Silent Patient, is a scrumptious read. I relate to the main character’s silence which feeds into the plot’s suspense. The human mind is fascinating, as are its methods, and all in the name of self-preservation. Equally enthralling to me is how Michaelides does such a great job sharing this in his book. This story also offers a twist that delighted me, along with its plot unfolding through the skillful use of flashbacks. I just love reading stories that effectively utilize this device. It is one of my favorite storytelling methods, too.

From the list:

The best books with plot twists

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Book cover of A Good Girl's Guide to Murder

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder

By Holly Jackson

Why this book?

Told through interviews, prose, and text messages, we watch a small-town murder mystery come to life when the Nancy Drew-esque detective resurrects a murder case that happened years ago that doesn’t quite sit right with her. I love the characters and it was intriguing to dive into a YA Mystery that doesn’t quite read like all the others. Highly recommend the second one in the series as well.

From the list:

The best books that are just the right flavor of experimental prose

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Book cover of These Toxic Things: A Thriller

These Toxic Things: A Thriller

By Rachel Howzell Hall

Why this book?

Rachel Howzell Hall keeps the reader guessing in These Toxic Things. Her protagonist Mickie Lambert creates digital scrapbooks, but when her latest client ends up dead, she's determined to find out why someone wants the peculiar objects the woman had given Mickie to preserve. To find the answers, she ends up crossing paths with a serial killer. It's twisty fun, and Hall's characters are ones you won't forget.

From the list:

The best thrilling mysteries with strong female leads

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Book cover of Grave Witch

Grave Witch

By Kalayna Price

Why this book?

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a fanatic for a bit of mystery in fiction. I often get bored when there is nothing for the characters to learn or discover. If it’s a story about detectives, murder, and magic, I’m 100% there! Grave Witch is a wonderful mix of witchcraft, romance, and mystery. The chemistry between the characters is sizzling and too enticing to say no. 

From the list:

The best urban fantasy books that keep you spellbound

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Book cover of Endless Night

Endless Night

By Agatha Christie

Why this book?

This is Agatha Christie's creepiest novel. A love story between a chauffeur and an heiress, who move to a majestic house in the countryside and find themselves the victims of a local curse. Strange things start to happen. But is any of it real? The shocking truth doesn't become clear until the last few pages.

From the list:

The best thriller books that will make you question reality

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Book cover of Her Royal Spyness

Her Royal Spyness

By Rhys Bowen

Why this book?

The Royal Spyness series is a cross between Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence and Nancy Mitford. It’s set in the 1930s and stars Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch. Lady “Georgie” is 34th in line to the throne. When her allowance is cut off she is forced to earn her own money … with disastrous – and deadly – results.

From the list:

The best books set in small communities where murder and humor abound

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Book cover of Cloche and Dagger

Cloche and Dagger

By Jenn McKinlay

Why this book?

Full disclosure: I love all Jenn McKinlay’s books, but the Hat Shop Mysteries are my favorite – probably because I know the area of London she writes about. I also love the Cupcake Mysteries, the Library Lover’s Mysteries as well as her stand alones. Her sense of humor is laugh-out-loud funny and the plots, twisty and fun. 

From the list:

The best books set in small communities where murder and humor abound

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Book cover of The Resurrectionist of Caligo

The Resurrectionist of Caligo

By Wendy Trimboli, Alicia Zaloga

Why this book?

Tapping into Edinburgh’s grim history of graverobbers (which, if you haven’t had the chance to play tourist in Scotland before, is absolutely fascinating), The Resurrectionist of Caligo uses the dark fantasy staples of blood magic and necromancy to explore the death industry, its role in urban environments, and its storied connection to academia and medicine. Following the trials of Caligo’s local “resurrectionist”, Roger, this book examines what happens to the dead in fantasy worlds, tracing the journeys of their cadavers from death to autopsy to burial to exhuming, taking a closer look at the ceremony and taboo surrounding death and…

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The best fantasy books with fantastical civic design

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Book cover of City of Stairs

City of Stairs

By Robert Jackson Bennett

Why this book?

A city of stairs, a world of mystery, a lot of tea drinking, and an investigation into the unfathomable. When I first read this book, about Divinities blinked out of the world, leaving reality broken in their passing, and I met Shara Komayd the Saypuri Spy, I didn’t know what to think. I found myself turning pages quite perplexed, wondering if this book was for me when I became suddenly aware that I loved everything about it. This, of course, was Shara’s plan all along. Ever the diplomat, she gave me a moment to compose myself, and went on to…

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The best fantasy books for dark humour and light entertainment

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Book cover of The Night Hunter

The Night Hunter

By Caro Ramsay

Why this book?

In this book, the author uses a new character Elvira (her character reappears in subsequent books) who leads the reader forward in the first person, a breakaway from the usual (close) third person in the other books in the series. Her voice is so clear, you can’t help but fall in love with her strange quirks. She is a medical student and trained in body combat. Elvira’s sister has been missing for 59 days and she can’t get the police interested enough to take her seriously. Her sister was an adult after all and left with a packed bag. Anderson…

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The best British books of suspense that will keep you up reading all night

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Book cover of The River of Souls

The River of Souls

By Robert McCammon

Why this book?

Robert McCammon is one of our finest contemporary writers. He truly has the gift of making me feel like I’m in the settings of his books, as if I’ve experienced the tribulations and triumphs of his characters firsthand. River of Souls is no exception. It transported me back in time to the swamps of the Carolinas in 1703, where alligators and snakes prowled the dark waters. The main character, Matthew Corbett, is tasked with journeying up the Solstice River in search of an accused murderer. He encounters strange settlements steeped in mysticism. Tales of a mythical beast hunting humans in…

From the list:

The best gripping books set in the wild

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Book cover of The Broken Shore

The Broken Shore

By Peter Temple

Why this book?

Crime but with such achingly good prose, I sometimes have to stop and re-read a sentence just to admire the way Temple wrote it. It’s a slow-burn, with a very dark, noir feeling, and the more you learn about the backstory of protagonist, Detective Senior Sergeant Joe Cashin, the more intriguing he becomes. A great plot, and I love the way Temple weaves different threads together to bring about the slick resolution. If you’re unfamiliar with Australian slang, expect a crash course in the first part of this novel. What makes this book one I return to again and again…

From the list:

The best crime books set in Australia

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Book cover of Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?

Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?

By Harold Schechter, Eric Powell

Why this book?

So few books give me chills, but I could feel my temperature downright drop the deeper into this graphic novel I went. Certainly not for the weak-hearted, or stomached for that matter, Powell and Schechter plunge into one of the most depraved characters of the Midwest… none other than Ed Gein himself. There is an odd beauty to the madness at display here. It just goes to show you never know what’s going on behind the closed doors of your next-door neighbors.

From the list:

The best books on bad neighbors

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Book cover of In Broad Daylight: A murder in Skidmore, Missouri

In Broad Daylight: A murder in Skidmore, Missouri

By Harry N. MacLean

Why this book?

This isn't a novel but a true crime narrative, a depiction of a man named Ken McElroy gunned down on the main street of a small Missouri town in, well, broad daylight. No witnesses. No suspects. Well, the whole town, the whole county, are suspects. This guy raped very young girls then got them to marry him, shot people, stole cattle and equipment, burned down houses. This book was a jolt to me because my wife is from that area, an area I, a man who's spent most of my life in urban areas, had always thought bucolic, filled with…

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The best books on psycho killers

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Book cover of Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects

By Gillian Flynn

Why this book?

While reading Sharp Objects, I wanted to remove anything sharp from my immediate surrounding area. The roots of my teeth ached. I craved whiskey. The scent of raw pig flesh pervaded my nostrils. Upon completion, I felt an overwhelming urge to take a shower. This fiction tale is a shocking, stinging, sickening kind of filth…and I loved everything about it. Gillian Flynn has left a permanent bite mark on my brain.

From the list:

The best books with intelligent, demented characters

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Book cover of The Appeal

The Appeal

By Janice Hallett

Why this book?

A bit of a cheat, as this story isn’t only told through letters, but also emails, text messages, annotations, and even sticky Post-It notes. It’s the most innovative and clever story I’ve read recently and it’s laugh-out-loud funny, too. The slow unravelling of the truth behind the fundraiser, as well as the eventual whodunnit, alongside an amateur production of All My Sons, is clever and gripping in equal measure.

From the list:

The best books featuring letters that change someone’s life

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Book cover of Every Last Secret: A Mystery (Skeet Bannion Series)

Every Last Secret: A Mystery (Skeet Bannion Series)

By Linda Rodriguez

Why this book?

Linda Rodriquez, Cherokee, is the second Native American woman I met who writes crime. Before we even met in person she was supportive of my ambition to write in this genre. She not only encouraged me to keep writing but to also join Sisters In Crime, the organization founded to support women mystery/crime writers. Every Last Secret is the #1 book in Rodriquez’s Skeet Bannion series. "Skeet" Bannion fled the stress of being the highest-ranking woman in the Kansas City Police Department, and moved to a small town to work on the local college police force. She thinks she has…

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The deadliest crime novels written by Native American authors

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Book cover of Pride and Premeditation

Pride and Premeditation

By Tirzah Price

Why this book?

If you like your mysteries paired with retold classics—think Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie for tea—I highly recommend this one! Price superbly captured the essence of Austen's characters and made them all her own. Instead of Bingley's purchase of Netherfield starting the story, he’s accused of murdering his brother-in-law. Quick-witted and resourceful Lizzie Bennet is eager to prove her worth as a solicitor in her father's barrister office and takes on the case to the prideful Darcy's dismay. Collins' character is just as cringy, and charming Wickham is a Bow Street Runner, helping Lizzie on her case. (You want him…

From the list:

The best YA mysteries that will have you channeling your inner Nancy Drew

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Book cover of Suspect

Suspect

By Robert Crais

Why this book?

In Suspect by Robert Crais, all seems hopeless for LAPD-K-9 officer Scott James who can’t work, can’t sleep, and can’t manage his anger after the brutal death of his partner. Maggie, a German shepherd back home from Afghanistan, is in the same boat - traumatized and nearly broken after losing her handler in a deadly attack. These two damaged souls are partnered up and knowing that this may be their last chance to return to the land of the living, begin to form a reluctant bond. Scott’s and Maggie’s connection strengthens as they are thrust into an investigation that could…

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The best thrillers and mysteries about dogs

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Book cover of The Ninth Daughter

The Ninth Daughter

By Barbara Hamilton

Why this book?

The Ninth Daughter is the first of the Abigail Adams Mysteries by Barbara Hamilton. Yes, that Abigail Adams—wife of John Adams, the second President of the United States. But this series is set before all that, at the cusp of the American Revolution. 

Struggling to be a supporting wife and mother, Abigail runs into trouble when her keen and curious mind finds clues to a serial killer hunting for victims in Boston's streets. 

As discontent continues to rise in the Colonies over England's strangling hold, there is more than one type of danger to contend with. The novel is a…

From the list:

The best historical mystery novels that will both enlighten and ensnare your imagination

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Book cover of Flight

Flight

By Laura Griffin

Why this book?

This is the second book in the Texas Murder Files series and Griffin is the author who brought us the Tracers books (another great series. Go read it!) In Flight, Miranda is desperately trying to take a break and recoup from a far too stressful job. We can all relate. But when she stumbles upon a murder, her skills as a forensic photographer mean her break is over. Local Detective Joel is just the hero we need and the tension builds slowly and wonderfully. This is great romantic suspense!

From the list:

The best steamy romantic suspense books for savvy readers

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Book cover of A Thousand Pieces of You

A Thousand Pieces of You

By Claudia Gray

Why this book?

Okay, so this one isn’t quite as “fantasy” as the others I’ve recommended, but since it features travel through dimensional space, I’m including it. The pseudo-science isn’t too heavy, so if you’re into hard science, I might give this one a pass. But if, like me, you want to swoon over romance that spans not just a planet, but multiple dimensions, Gray has got you covered. There’s something so powerful about finding love that can stand through not only different realities but different iterations of the people involved… It just hits me square in the chest. Gray’s writing is also…

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The best traveling fantasy romance books

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Book cover of Low Tide (The Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense Series)

Low Tide (The Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense Series)

By Dawn Lee McKenna

Why this book?

Dawn Lee McKenna is no longer with us, but she left a legacy of great thriller writing. This is the start for me to delve into her great characters and settings and really fall in love with what she wrote. You cannot go wrong with this series, which is 10 amazing books. Still one of my favorite series of books, set in Apalachicola Florida (where I’ve vacationed a few times and got to meet the author at one of her signings years ago, too!)

From the list:

The best tropical author thriller books

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Book cover of Hold Back the Night: A Detective McDaniel Thriller

Hold Back the Night: A Detective McDaniel Thriller

By Axel Blackwell

Why this book?

The author’s work with Dawn Lee McKenna might be more fighting for this list (check out The Stillwaters Suspense Series) but I absolutely love this series because the main characters are fun to follow along with. They are so multi-dimensional, and the dialogue is outstanding. I could read chapter after chapter of them chatting about nothing, and still enjoy it. The action is well-written and not hokey, which I love. The twists and turns will leave you wanting more, and I cannot wait to read more from Axel in the future. You should, too! 

From the list:

The best tropical author thriller books

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Book cover of Barney's Version

Barney's Version

By Mordecai Richler

Why this book?

Everything you want to know about being Jewish, brilliant, vengeful, Jewish, neurotic, charming, and being a Canadian writer in Bohemian Paris in the fifties. Richler’s hero Barney Panofsky is the portrait of a man who wasted his life, but had a great time doing it. A self-proclaimed ‘impenitent rotter’, he is redeemed by his unwavering regret at losing the love of his third wife. Oh, the carousing, the romance, the revelry. How I wish I had been there.

From the list:

The best off-the-wall romance literature to surprise, delight, and challenge your perceptions

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Book cover of Murder on Black Swan Lane

Murder on Black Swan Lane

By Andrea Penrose

Why this book?

Like my Detective Lavender books and the Sebastian St Cyr series by C. S. Harris these novels are also set in Regency London. But the protagonist, Charlotte Sloane is an enterprising – and unique – woman who's carved out a secret and successful career for herself as a satirical cartoonist. She’s the perfect match for the mercurial and scientific Earl of Wrexford, her crime-solving partner, and the chemistry between them adds an extra layer of interest to the novels. The secondary characters in this series are delightful, especially the Raven and Hawk, the street-wise young orphans whom Charlotte has…

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The best Georgian and Regency mystery books

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Book cover of Remember Me

Remember Me

By Christopher Pike

Why this book?

I’ve read this book more times than I can count. A girl has to solve her own murder from beyond the grave with a cute dead boy who was her friend before he passed away? Sign me up! Though I don’t write paranormal, I’ve always had a fascination with “the other side”, and this book more than delivers a big dose of murderous intrigue and belly-dipping romance. And it has a real ghost story behind it! Christopher Pike is quoted as saying that when he wrote the book’s final words, “I just want to be remembered”, he felt a hand…

From the list:

The best YA books from the 20th century that will give you all the feels

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Book cover of The Bat

The Bat

By Jo Nesbø

Why this book?

Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is sent to Sydney to observe a murder case, only to discover a string of unsolved murders. The investigation leads them towards a psychopath who won’t stop until they make him.

Inspector Hole is another very human policeman haunted by demons; bright and obsessive, prone to using unconventional methods. A recovering alcoholic, Hole's mental health and his solitude are often a focus of the books.

From the list:

The best of Nordic noir from a Nordic noir fan

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Book cover of The Fire Witness

The Fire Witness

By Lars Kepler

Why this book?

At a home for troubled girls, a young girl has been brutally murdered. One of the other girls has gone missing and the murder weapon is discovered in her bed. But is it really that easy? Detective Inspector Joona Linna pieces the evidence together. 

Lars Kepler is the pseudonym of husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril. The Joona Linna series follows Linna, Detective Superintendent at the police's National Operations Department, and Saga Bauer, an Operational Superintendent at the Swedish Security Service. The diverse viewpoints and short chapters give an exciting and varied read.

From the list:

The best of Nordic noir from a Nordic noir fan

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Book cover of Stockholm Delete

Stockholm Delete

By Jens Lapidus

Why this book?

Emilie Jansson, a newly made partner at a law firm in Stockholm, is asked to collaborate with Teddy, the firm’s investigator. Teddy is an ex-con trying to stay out of trouble. A body is discovered after what looks like an attempted robbery. An injured man found at the scene becomes the prime suspect. Emilie takes on the role of his defence lawyer. But then the trail leads back to Teddy...

Jens Lapidus used to work as a criminal defence lawyer at a law firm representing some of the most infamous criminals in Sweden. His background gives him unusual insight and…

From the list:

The best of Nordic noir from a Nordic noir fan

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Book cover of Have Mercy on Us All

Have Mercy on Us All

By Fred Vargas

Why this book?

The chief attraction of Fred Vargas’s novels is her cast of characters, led by Chief Inspector Adamsberg, a most unconventional leader of any criminal investigation outfit. Small and disheveled, good with animals and children, dreamy and often seemingly idle, Adamsberg is not only extremely bright but has confidently surrounded himself with remarkable colleagues. Hard-drinking Adrien Danglard, a single father of five with a huge store of ready information, and Violette Retancourt, a woman of prodigious strength and courage, are among his entertaining subordinates, along with Snowball, the division’s cat that proves equally remarkable in one memorable outing. 

From the list:

The best books for unexpected detectives

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Book cover of Breaking Creed

Breaking Creed

By Alex Kava

Why this book?

Novels featuring one canine is special enough, but an entire pack? Sign me up! In Breaking Creed, Alex Kava introduces us to ex-Marine Ryder Creed and his team of search-and-rescue dogs in training. When Creed and Grace, his Jack Russel terrier, are called in to search a commercial fishing boat for drugs, they find a very different kind of cargo.

Creed’s interference makes him target number one for a dangerous cartel, who will stop at nothing to eliminate the man who tried to thwart their mission. Ensconced at his compound in Florida, Creed and his crew of canines are…

From the list:

The best thrillers and mysteries about dogs

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Book cover of Stasi Child: A Karin Müller Thriller

Stasi Child: A Karin Müller Thriller

By David Young

Why this book?

This is a police procedural set in the 1970s in East Berlin. The author successfully evokes an atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion, as the main character, a female detective, must try to solve the murder of a young girl who seems to have been killed fleeing from West to East Germany (not the usual direction). The feeling that everyone is watching, everyone is a potential informer, everything is potentially corrupt, corresponds to all the research I did on East Germany. Plus, it’s a great story that’s hard to put down.

From the list:

The best books that show living in East Germany really was like a spy movie

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Book cover of The Space Between Worlds

The Space Between Worlds

By Micaiah Johnson

Why this book?

Even after I wrote my first book about the multiverse, I found myself drawn to reading more and more in this very niche genre. So it takes a lot to surprise me or show me something new in this space. This book had an amazing twist and I couldn’t put it down. The book had several great layered elements which I really enjoyed and I loved seeing the different alter-egos. Seeing such disparate versions of the different characters was really fun and shows the author’s creativity. 

From the list:

The best books if you want to escape this reality for a little bit

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Book cover of The Long Call

The Long Call

By Ann Cleeves

Why this book?

I love this book because it’s a fascinating portrait of a gay cop that focuses more on his background growing up in a religious community than on his sexuality. The TV series does a better job of connecting the two, but I’m delighted that a best-selling author has dipped her toe into this genre. It’s also a cleverly-plotted mystery that kept me guessing.

From the list:

The best mysteries with gay cops

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Book cover of The Cutting Season

The Cutting Season

By Attica Locke

Why this book?

Caren Gray, the manager of a historic plantation, learns the body of a migrant worker has been discovered on the grounds. Searching for answers, she stumbles upon another crime that occurred over a century ago in the era of slavery and may hold the key to unlocking revelations in the present. Locke does a fantastic job of balancing the two timelines for great effect. History can haunt us, but this book leaves you with the eerie feeling of being surveilled by the past.

From the list:

The best thrillers and mysteries inhabited by history

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Book cover of Long Way Down

Long Way Down

By Jason Reynolds

Why this book?

I absolutely loved this book! As an author of a memoir-in-verse, I am so impressed with how he chose to structure this story. Will, a fifteen-year-old Black boy with a gun in tow looks to avenge his brother’s murder but encounters several characters on the elevator ride that unlock a series of reflections, questions, and revelations. The creativity is mind-blowing! The poems had all the punch of a gangster and the tenderness of the boys that live within those tough exteriors. It captured the complicated nature of revenge, street life, and the seemingly endless and inescapable cycle of violence, while…

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The best poetry books that explore communities of color

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Book cover of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

By Stuart Turton

Why this book?

Quantum Leap is my favorite television show of all time. I loved the time travel premise in an otherwise not very sci-fi program, the anthology format allowing for completely different stories week to week, and the way it could teach different perspectives while (mostly) avoiding a heavy hand. Why do I bring this up while recommending The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle? Pretend Quantum Leap is back as a limited 6 episode miniseries where Sam Beckett has to solve a murder and that's pretty much this book. I don't know if that was the author's intent, but it…

From the list:

The best bizarrely bewildering but by and by brilliantly beautiful books

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Book cover of An American Dream

An American Dream

By Norman Mailer

Why this book?

Three harrowing days in the broken-down life of Stephen Rojack, self-appointed existential psychologist, TV personality of dubious distinction, novice mystic, and all-around deeply-frightened soul who one night strangles his wife in a fit of rage over a particular sexual practice of his, goes downstairs, buggers the German maid, visions of the four Nazi soldiers he killed during the war dancing through his head, tosses the wife’s corpse over the balcony which causes a traffic jam down below whose complications will reverberate throughout the rest of the novel and all that’s just in the first two chapters.

The whole feverish melodrama…

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The best liminal books guaranteed to drive you out of your skull

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Book cover of The Ranger

The Ranger

By Ace Atkins

Why this book?

Ace Atkins is a master of the crime genre. It’s no wonder Robert B. Parker’s estate tapped him to carry on the Spenser series. He’s great at capturing places and the internal monologues of weary men. He’s also able to tell stories just seedy enough to keep readers curious, without making them cringe. The first book in Atkins’ Quinn Colson series is on par with Elmore Leonard’s Raylan Givens books. Quinn seems entirely real, the small town he returns to after a years-long absence feels lived in and believable. And the pacing is masterful. Whereas Perry drags readers along for…

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The best crime novels if you appreciate style and humor

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Book cover of A Quiet Life in the Country (A Lady Hardcastle Mystery, 1)

A Quiet Life in the Country (A Lady Hardcastle Mystery, 1)

By T.E. Kinsey

Why this book?

This series is a little lighter, a lot funnier, than the ones recommended above. As usual, it’s the characters who latched hold of me. Lady Hardcastle is a widow in 1920s England with an amazing maid who has all sorts of talents. The two of them decide to find a house in the country where they can live in peace and quiet. But you guessed it—murders start coming their way to solve. The Lady Hardcastle series is not too grim, not too silly. Just plain fun!

From the list:

The best cozy mysteries by contemporary authors

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Book cover of The Maid

The Maid

By Nita Prose

Why this book?

The Maid offers a fresh amateur sleuth with a unique outlook on life. Molly Gray loves and excels at her job as a hotel maid in a grand, upscale hotel. She struggles, however, with social cues and interpersonal relationships. When Molly finds a dead body in the penthouse suite, her awkward personality lands her at the top of the suspect list. To clear her name, she has to rely on a delightful cast of true friends she never knew she had. At times, I grew frustrated with Molly and her naivete, but I always appreciated her honest, refreshing worldview and…

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The best crime fiction books to give you hope for humanity

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Book cover of A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

By Louise Penny

Why this book?

All of Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache novels are marvelous. In this one, however, there is a scene where the great detective regards his wife, Reine-Marie, as they sit together in their living room. And he thinks he has had a great deal of luck in his life, but none more so than being married to this woman for thirty-five years. He adores her, and it shows in every interaction. He is very tough, very intelligent, and takes enormous risks; but he is always kind to the people he loves. But God help the villains. As it should be.

From the list:

The best mystery books in which you really want to hug the detective

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Book cover of Books Can Be Deceiving

Books Can Be Deceiving

By Jenn McKinlay, Jenn McKinlay

Why this book?

The first Library Lover’s Mystery, Books Can Be Deceiving is set in a small New England town where the main character, Lindsey, has recently taken over as director of the public library. She takes on the role of amateur sleuth to help her friend and co-worker, a children’s librarian, who has been accused of killing her boyfriend after they broke up. Clues lead Lindsey to discover some secrets in the murdered man’s past that now pose a threat to her safety. I liked the way the suspense was built and how the characters were portrayed. As a librarian at…

From the list:

The best first books of cozy mystery series that feature libraries and librarians

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Book cover of Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance

Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance

By Gyles Brandreth

Why this book?

This is the first book in a series that is as witty, complex, charming, and dark as Oscar Wilde himself. (“I can resist everything but temptation.”) The author is steeped in Wilde and his world, quotes him extensively (but appropriately) and also delivers a great mystery set in the fascinating era of Victorian decline and fin de siècle artistic fervor. Arthur Conan Doyle, in a great turnabout, plays “Watson” to Wilde’s “Sherlock” in all the mysteries. A later book in the series takes on Jack the Ripper, with some surprising suspects!

From the list:

The best historical mysteries with famous people as the amateur sleuths

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Book cover of Come Hell or Highball: A Mystery

Come Hell or Highball: A Mystery

By Maia Chance

Why this book?

When I read in the book description of Come Hell or Highball that Lola survived on “highballs, detective novels, and chocolate layer cake,” I was so in. I can root for a sleuth who loves mysteries and chocolate layer cake. The book has an American setting, which I find is a nice change from the mostly European-focused books of this time period. After her no-good playboy of a husband dies unexpectedly, Lola learns he burned through their income. Only Berta, her loyal cook, stays with her. Desperate for cash, Lola agrees to an unusual job, retrieving an item from a…

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The best undiscovered 1920s historical mysteries

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Book cover of Slammerkin

Slammerkin

By Emma Donoghue

Why this book?

Maybe it’s because of my working-class roots, but Mary Saunders, an obscure but very real historical figure, is the sort of woman I wanted to root for. After all, it takes initiative, ingenuity, and not a small dose of impetuosity to rise from a lower-class schoolgirl to, well, some higher station. I was saddened to see how Mary’s yearnings to free herself from the shackles of her class forced her into prostitution at a young age. But when she made a dangerous misstep that set her on the run and landed her a position of a household seamstress, I couldn’t…
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The best books about wily, take-charge women

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Book cover of Alias Grace

Alias Grace

By Margaret Atwood

Why this book?

I read this book two weeks ago and have not slept since, ruminating over the true-crime case that is the heart of the mystery. In 1840s Canada, two servants killed their employers and fled wearing their clothes. The maid, Grace, claims she can’t remember the day of the murder and was essentially kidnapped, and in explaining her life story basically mentally obliterates not just the young doctor working on her case but you, dear reader, as well. Is she a manipulative psychopath or an innocent victim, or is something otherworldly at work? Please read it and tell me. There needs…

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The best books with narrators that may or may not be psychopaths

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Book cover of Death at the Seaside

Death at the Seaside

By Frances Brody

Why this book?

The North of England isn’t all post-industrial urban centres of decay. As well as being home to large and important cities, its green spaces are plentiful and attract numerous tourists to its many attractions. Frances Brody’s PI Kate Shackleton series makes use of Yorkshire’s picturesque and pleasant rural settings, not least the rolling moors leading to the coastal town of Whitby in the series’ eighth outing. Set in the 1920s, Brody’s series is also a reminder of the importance of subverting and challenging social norms, but never at the expense of entertaining the reader.
From the list:

The best crime novels to mark the trials and tribulations of the North of England

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Book cover of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

By Stephanie Oakes

Why this book?

Minnow is a fascinating character having narrowly escaped the cult she’s been living in for twelve years. They took her hands, but she’s alive and away from the daily cruelties the cult subjected her to. The authorities want her to tell them everything, but Minnow wants her freedom and won’t give up her secrets for anything less. So she’s stuck in a detention center with too much time to remember the events that led to her escape and the carnage she left behind.

From the list:

The best YA books with amputee characters

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Book cover of A Death in Peking: Who Really Killed Pamela Werner?

A Death in Peking: Who Really Killed Pamela Werner?

By Graeme Sheppard

Why this book?

Graeme Sheppard’s account of the 1937 murder of Englishwoman Pamela Werner, A Death in Peking, has been overshadowed by Paul French’s more widely known Midnight in Peking, unfortunately so. Whereas French builds his case on dubious claims and sensationalizes his narrative with gothic embellishments centered around the haunted “Fox Tower” where Werner’s body was supposedly found (a location contradicted by contemporary newspaper accounts), Sheppard sticks to the facts and arrives at a strikingly different and more convincing conclusion regarding the identity of the murderer. And if French’s page-turner is modelled more on the mystery novel genre than true-crime…

From the list:

The best books about old Beijing

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Book cover of Shiver

Shiver

By Allie Reynolds

Why this book?

Shiver is one of the best books I read last year. Essentially it’s a locked room mystery set in the world of professional snowboarding. Milla gets an invitation to reunite with friends from her snowboarding days, but they’ve not been together since their friend, Saskia, went missing. And then, as is the way with edge-of-your-seat thrillers, they can’t get off the mountain, the storm’s closing in and someone is watching them. The truth about Saskia will come out one way or another. Milla and Saskia had been competitors, rivals, and then friends. It’s a complicated friendship and a fascinating look…

From the list:

The best thrillers that shine a spotlight on female friendships

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Book cover of See What I Have Done

See What I Have Done

By Sarah Schmidt

Why this book?

When a friend recommended this book to me, I asked what it was about. Lizzie Borden he said. Which made me sigh and shake my head because I’m not a fan of the Lizzie Borden story. And yet – there was this book. And this book is simply one of the best books I’ve read. Incredible language, tension that twists tighter and tighter, dread that takes away the breath, a complicated family that barely tolerates each other…this is a great gothic read. Dark and haunting and so deliciously good. If you think you know the Lizzie Borden story, you…

From the list:

The best gothic novels for a cold winter’s night

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Book cover of The Witness for the Dead

The Witness for the Dead

By Katherine Addison

Why this book?

I reread The Witness for the Dead at least three times in the first months after I got my hands on it and have bought it in both physical form and ebook. This is a great secondary world fantasy and murder mystery. It’s on this list because of the portrayal of Thara Celehar as a man struggling with depression, haunted by past trauma and the bleakness he expects of his future while carrying on doing his duty by those who depend on him, combined with his unfailing mixture of wisdom and kindness and his awkwardness in accepting kindness and friendship…

From the list:

The best fiction books with characters experiencing depression that won't leave you feeling down

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Book cover of Scythe

Scythe

By Neal Shusterman

Why this book?

Scythe has some of the most fantastic world-building in a dystopian that I’ve read. The story is told by switching back and forth between two main characters, one male, Rowan, and one female, Citra, which adds depth to the story without getting too confusing. *I’m looking at you Six of Crows.*

Society has reached the point where no one dies from natural causes anymore, and people can live indefinitely. Scythes have been tasked with killing people at random to keep the population somewhat in check. When Citra and Rowan are selected to study and learn under a famous scythe,…

From the list:

The best young adult soft science-fiction books

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Book cover of Light Thickens

Light Thickens

By Ngaio Marsh

Why this book?

Marsh was one of the great mystery novelists, but her great love was theatre, and in this book, they come together. Few mysteries delve so deeply into the details of the theatre world. In this case, the play is Macbeth, and the murders behind the scenes eerily echo the violent play itself. The scene and setting are so gripping that it's impossible to stop reading and the ending is both surprising and satisfying. 

From the list:

The best mysteries in the theatre world

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Book cover of Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob

By William Landay

Why this book?

In 2017, an electrical fire destroyed our home. For ten months during repairs, we stayed in 24 different places. There were days I went to work with a suitcase because we had to check into a different place that night. 

Two days after the fire, my (now) agent offered to represent me. She wanted revisions, which I did from our temporary homes, and suggested I read Defending Jacob for inspiration. 

This thriller is a story of an unraveling family. I will always be grateful for the direction this novel gave my work, but also for the intense focus it gave…

From the list:

The best books on dysfunctional fiction families you can’t help but love

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Trust Your Eyes

By Linwood Barclay

Why this book?

What happens when two brothers are reunited after the tragic death of their father? Thomas is the savant, but is he a schizophrenic? He lives in his bedroom and maps out major cities of the world, in advance of the coming apocalypse. His mission is to save the world by committing to memory every street and location. 

He’s been under the care of his father, but now his “normal” brother has moved in to figure out how Thomas can be cared for going forward. Thomas’s online research uncovers a satellite photo of a possible strangulation in Manhattan, that brings the…

From the list:

The best fantastic mysteries by Canadian novelists that will twist you in knots

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Book cover of The Death of Lucy Kyte: A New Mystery Featuring Josephine Tey

The Death of Lucy Kyte: A New Mystery Featuring Josephine Tey

By Nicola Upson

Why this book?

This book is close to my heart as it started my writing career. The Death of Lucy Kyte is the fifth book in the Josephine Tey mystery novels based on a true Suffolk crime dubbed The Red Barn murders. I loved the way the book weaved between past and present, and the skill employed by the author in creating a fictional work from an actual historical crime. Not only did it offer me a series of mystery books, which I loved, but it set me on the path to penning my own novels in a similar genre.
From the list:

The best and bloodiest true crimes that inspired fiction

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Book cover of The Yard

The Yard

By Alex Grecian

Why this book?

I stumbled across this book while browsing through a charity shop – a murder/mystery set in Whitechapel when Jack the Ripper is still roaming free. I am by no means a follower of Ripper stories, legend or myth, despite recommending this book, but there is something about Victorian London in the 1880s that fascinates me.

The Yard is the first in a series that I have devoured over the last few years. I love Alex Grecian’s easy writing style and the main character, Detective Inspector Walter Day is one I wish I had created myself. He has a brilliant mind,…

From the list:

The best books that venture into the darker side of Victorian life

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Book cover of The Diviners

The Diviners

By Libba Bray

Why this book?

Evie O’Neill has been sent to live with her Uncle Will when she can’t obey the conventional rules of her hometown. The good news is that he lives in glitzy New York City during the 1920s, but Will runs a very different scene, operating the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. After a girl’s body is discovered with clues indicating that the murder was motivated by the occult, Evie, her uncle, and a few new friends find themselves involved in the investigation. A Young Adult book, what I particularly love about this novel, is the way Evie evolves…

From the list:

The best books to get your Sherlock Holmes fix

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Book cover of Castle Skull

Castle Skull

By John Dickson Carr

Why this book?

If as a suspense fan you missed this one, shame on you. Well, let’s picture a haunted castle on Rhine with a murdered magician, an eccentric cast of characters, a very astute detective, and his pragmatic American assistant investigating the crime.

Carr never cheats on plot and he always delivers on drama. His timing is just exquisite. You are given everything but you still have an ah-ha moment (usually more than one) as events unfold. It is a timeless setting and story tension so high that I could see the flicker of the lights and hear the rush of the…

From the list:

The best books for the steep cliff page-turners

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Book cover of The Yiddish Policemen's Union

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

By Michael Chabon

Why this book?

In putting together this list I determined not to include any books where the Nazis win World War Two and not to include any series that last ridiculously long. We’ll see if I can keep to that. This book is brilliant. Playful. Fun. And Serious. Imagine that the Jewish homeland had not been established in Israel, after World War Two, but in a part of Alaska. Then throw in a detective story based around a murder. And mobsters. And intrigue. And plenty of plot twists. And the lease on this Jewish homeland running out. And maybe even a messiah figure.…

From the list:

The best alternative histories that you really wish had happened

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Book cover of Everything We Didn't Say

Everything We Didn't Say

By Nicole Baart

Why this book?

I’m going to say everything about Everything We Didn’t Say. This family drama is full of mystery, but also love, heartbreak, surprise, distrust, fear, and redemption. One thing I loved about it was the relationship between the main character, Juniper, and the daughter she chose not to raise. Instead of a “will they won’t they” romance, this book has a similar vibe but with the relationship between a mother and daughter. Hearts are hard to heal, you know? Add to it the truth about who murdered the neighbor couple way back when, some sibling love (I do love a…

From the list:

The best books to read when you don’t want to guess what’s going on

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Book cover of Death on Demand (Death on Demand Mysteries, No. 1)

Death on Demand (Death on Demand Mysteries, No. 1)

By Carolyn G. Hart

Why this book?

Carolyn Hart is the master of cozy feel-good mysteries. Her writing pulls you into the story. I love how she uses both big names from the mystery world and rising stars in her sleuth’s bookstore. The two main characters, Annie and Max, are an endearing pair of sleuths.

From the list:

The best feel good mystery books

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Book cover of It Takes a Witch: A Wishcraft Mystery

It Takes a Witch: A Wishcraft Mystery

By Heather Blake

Why this book?

Heather Blake’s first Wishcraft mystery is a captivating story that delightfully blends crime, magic, romance, and self-discovery. The suspense remains high throughout the book and is not an easy mystery to solve. The characters and plot are spellbinding and full of charm, enchantment, and humor. I especially love the animals who speak and help provide the clues.

From the list:

The best feel good mystery books

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Book cover of Murder at the Lakeside Library: A Lakeside Library Mystery

Murder at the Lakeside Library: A Lakeside Library Mystery

By Holly Danvers

Why this book?

Holly Danver’s first book in the Lakeside Library series is fast-paced and an easy read that skillfully evokes both the charm and the quirks of a small town. The setting is fun and the characters are likable. It has delightful touches and twists with a nimble plot that will keep you turning the pages until the very end. It provides a fictional vacation at a rustic Wisconsin cabin that includes a private lending library

From the list:

The best feel good mystery books

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Book cover of Recipes for Love and Murder

Recipes for Love and Murder

By Sally Andrew

Why this book?

Having travelled in Africa, I’m always keen to find books set on the continent. It’s a bonus if suspense is involved and a double bonus if the story hinges on the setting. This book gets high marks in both departments. It was a better immersive experience than if I’d rented an Airbnb and watched the action unfold from the front porch.

Rural South Africa is home to advice columnist and cooking authority Tannie Maria (Tannie meaning Auntie, the respectful Afrikaans address for a woman older than you) in the first book in this unique and extraordinary series. A middle-aged widow,…

From the list:

The best thrillers set in exotic locations

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Book cover of Death on Paradise Island: Fiji Islands Mysteries 1

Death on Paradise Island: Fiji Islands Mysteries 1

By B.M. Allsopp

Why this book?

The South Pacific nation of Fiji is a magical place, as I found out many years ago on a scuba trip that evolved into a circuit of the main island of Viti Levu. For tourists, the island chain offers the gold standard of tropical paradise resorts, but the story for the Fijians is considerably more complicated. The islands are widely scattered, race relations led to government coups, economic opportunities are limited, and old ways are under pressure from modern expectations.

Using cultural elements like canoe racing, as well as a foreboding sense of the conflict inherent in Fijian life today,…

From the list:

The best thrillers set in exotic locations

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Book cover of White Mischief

White Mischief

By James Fox

Why this book?

As an exposé of the upper-class Happy Valley set in the late 30s/early 40s white Kenya this sets the tone for subsequent settler behaviour. An investigation into a real-life unsolved mystery, the murder of Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll, it features an outlandish cast of characters and lifestyles of astonishing decadence and privilege and reads like a thriller.

From the list:

The best African set political thrillers

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Book cover of The Grass Is Singing

The Grass Is Singing

By Doris Lessing

Why this book?

I don’t remember if there is actual wildlife in this book (apart from a dog), but nature plays a big part in the story. It was one of the first novels about Africa I read and it moved me deeply. Doris Lessing has written quite a few books about Africa, some political, others with a focus on the land, its people, and nature. She grew up in Zimbabwe (which was called Rhodesia back then) and is an award-winning author. I had to include at least one of her books in my list, so there.

From the list:

The best books of Southern Africa with wild life

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Book cover of The Order

The Order

By Daniel Silva

Why this book?

Daniel Silva has written a long series about Israeli spy chief and art restorer Gabriel Allan. I enjoyed the series and there’s a subplot the author has long weaved together with Gabriel Allan and the Vatican. If you ever visit Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, you might hear the church bells from the Catholic Church next to her house. It’s a stunning contrast. I like the powerplay between Gabriel and the Vatican portrayed in the story, and I gain a little history even though it’s a work of fiction.

From the list:

The best mysteries that let you explore the major cities of Italy

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Book cover of Suspicious

Suspicious

By Sara Rosett

Why this book?

This is a cozy mystery that gives the reader a nice tour of Rome from a bargain tourist perspective. The story takes the reader north into Austria and Germany so you gain a feeling for the Alps. The couple that leads the story are suspects in a series of jewelry heists and work their way through Northern Italy and beyond to solve the thefts. It’s a light-hearted story with a little romance, no cuss words, and little violence.

From the list:

The best mysteries that let you explore the major cities of Italy

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Book cover of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

By David Grann

Why this book?

An old cliché has it that nobody loves a rich Indian. As David Grann reveals in his account of 1920s Osage County, Oklahoma, outsiders stopped at nothing short of maiming and murdering Osage tribal people who found themselves sitting on large oil deposits and a windfall of cash. Even J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI are called west to try and solve the mysterious deaths of numerous tribal members in a scandal, long forgotten by many, that rocked the press in the era of Prohibition and The Roaring Twenties.  

From the list:

The best books with true stories about Indian country

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Book cover of The City and the City

The City and the City

By China Miéville

Why this book?

Miéville once more challenges conventional narratives in this crime noir, with Inspector Borlú investigating the death of a young woman in the city of Beszel. However, Borlú quickly discovers that the victim was a resident of Ul Qoma, a parallel city that coexists with Beszel in the way that conjoined twins occupy the same body. They share the same geographical location, but only insofar as borders permit. The only way to cross these invisible borders is through a stringent immigration process.

What follows is a cat-and-mouse chase between two cities, where inhabitants have been taught to ‘unsee’ what is happening…

From the list:

The best crime mystery books with unconventional characters

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Book cover of The Secret Place

The Secret Place

By Tana French

Why this book?

Honestly, any Tana French book could go here—she’s such a master of mood and atmosphere. But I particularly love the world she creates in The Secret Place. When a boy is found murdered on the grounds of an all-girls boarding school, Detective Stephen Moran is called in to investigate. It just gets more and more eerie as we are drawn into the world and rules of this school and the teenagers who inhabit it. Nothing is creepier than the power and cruelty of teen girls. Nothing. 

From the list:

The best thrillers with incredibly spooky atmosphere and mood

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Book cover of What the Dead Leave Behind

What the Dead Leave Behind

By Rosemary Simpson

Why this book?

Frances lives in the Victorian Era in London, but in her hometown of New York, it’s the Gilded Age. This is her background in all its glittering and horrifying glory. 

Crime novels fit quite naturally in this era. I love a loathsome villain and Rosemary Simpson serves up some of the worst in her Gilded Age series. She uses actual events, like the great blizzard of 1888, as catalysts for some heinous crimes. If you needed to dispose of a body, what better place than a snowdrift? 

Prudence MacKenzie, the dead man’s fiancé and our sleuth, doesn’t seem to realize…

From the list:

The best female sleuths of the Gilded Age

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Book cover of Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Mysteries

Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Mysteries

By Ann Cleeves

Why this book?

On the Shetland Islands, off the northeast coast of Scotland, winter casts an iron-clad hold on both land and people. When dawn breaks on New Year’s Day, the body of a young girl is spotted on the frozen beach, ravens circling in the lowering sky. A scapegoat soon presents itself in the shape of a lonely, mistrusted outcast, but Inspector Jimmy Perez refuses to take the easy way forward. As Jimmy’s search for the truth continues, clues and red herrings drift across the landscape like the gloomy ravens of the title and more than one dark secret waits to…

From the list:

The best spine-tingling thrillers set on remote islands

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Book cover of The Wrath & the Dawn

The Wrath & the Dawn

By Renée Ahdieh

Why this book?

Shazi is a headstrong, stubborn girl who marries the ruthless caliph of her kingdom with the intention of killing him. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with him, which thwarts all of her plans. This book easily transports you to an Arabian caliphate with the gorgeous descriptions of setting, food, and clothes, and the relationship between Shazi and Khalid is wonderful to witness blossoming. This book keeps you at the edge of your seat and gives you an ending that is bound to break your heart.

From the list:

The best fantasy books to break your heart with forbidden romance

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Book cover of The Legacy: A Thriller

The Legacy: A Thriller

By Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Why this book?

A mother is murdered, and her seven-year-old daughter is the only witness, but she does not speak. Detective Huldar and psychologist Freyja must find out what the girl saw and stop the killer. 

Yrsa Sigurdardottir puts her own stamp on the Nordic Noir genre and combines crime fiction with a touch of horror, which I really like. Although this book is more of a police procedural, the plot is layered and complex, and still brings out that dark, chilling, and disturbing side of the crimes and the secrets the characters hold.

From the list:

The best Nordic Noir books to get you hooked on this genre

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Book cover of The Four Horsemen: A Novel

The Four Horsemen: A Novel

By Gregory Dowling

Why this book?

The Four Horsemen is Gregory Dowling’s follow-up to his book Ascension. Set in the 1700s, it’s a thriller/mystery that follows a tour guide (yes, they had them back then) who is recruited into a secret police of sorts. They need him to investigate the death of an agent, which is connected to a secret society called The Four Horsemen. Forced to go on the run, the book delves into the back alleys, canals, and island of Venice. Another wonderfully researched book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

From the list:

The best historical fiction set in Venice, Italy

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Book cover of And the Sea Will Tell

And the Sea Will Tell

By Vincent Bugliosi, Bruce Henderson

Why this book?

In 1974, two couples sailed into the Palmyra Atoll in search of a tropical paradise—but only one couple sailed back. When Eleanor “Muff” Graham’s body washes up on shore 6 years later, Buck Walker and his former girlfriend Stephanie Stearns are charged with her murder, but the outcome of their trials surprises everyone. Written by Stearns’ famed defense attorney Vincent Bugliosi, this story has everything: a tropical island teeming with tension, two couples whose ideologies were bound to come to a head, and a wild court case that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very…

From the list:

The best true crime books to keep you up at night

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Book cover of Classic Crimes

Classic Crimes

By William Roughead

Why this book?

Roughead wrote leisurely, almost Dickensian accounts of UK criminal trials in the 1920s and 1930s. He brought a sharp lawyer’s eye, a flair for the unusual, and a witty, knowledgeable voice to the trials and to the people involved. Madeleine Smith, Constance Kent, and Donald Merritt are among the 12 cases in this sampling from his many collections. Roughead set the bar for literate crime writers who followed.

From the list:

The best true crime books for those who (think they) don’t like true crime

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Book cover of Ilustrado

Ilustrado

By Miguel Syjuco

Why this book?

A multi-level work of genius. On the surface, this book is about someone trying to solve a murder. But Ilustrado is so much more than just your usual murder mystery. The book does more than use Philippine colonial and contemporary history as the backdrop; it weaves this history into the fabric of the narrative itself. As the protagonist uncovers buried facts about his late mentor and as well as his own past, he also discovers just how inseparable Art is from the political intrigue and social violence in which it is birthed. And the twist at the end explodes the…

From the list:

The best books that are riddles, wrapped in a mystery, inside an engima

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Book cover of The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

By Alex Marzano-Lesnevich

Why this book?

Marzano-Lesnevich was a Harvard law student working a summer internship when they encountered the case of Ricky Langley, who was being held on death row in Louisiana. That case opened up a personal wound for the author, and they vividly and powerfully intertwine the two stories. The author uses speculation and imagination to attempt to fill in blanks that are unanswerable. I recently taught this book in a seminar at Columbia on creative license in nonfiction, and my students were floored. 

From the list:

The best true crime-adjacent books

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Book cover of The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star

By Maureen Johnson

Why this book?

Many YA readers will be familiar with Maureen Johnson’s homerun success with the Truly, Devious series, but perhaps not have heard of her earlier Shades of London series. Anyone who loves ghostly tales and admires Johnson’s quirky, rock-solid prose should give The Name of the Star a read, stat.

This is the book equivalent of my spirit animal. I'm actually slightly alarmed at how closely Maureen Johnson's fantastic novel and my own interests align. Serial killers, ghosts, boarding schools--every element is wonderfully presented, and always with Johnson’s signature, humorous touch. Just perfect.

From the list:

The best young adult books for spooks and thrills

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Book cover of Low Tide

Low Tide

By Dawn Lee McKenna

Why this book?

Dawn Lee was a friend and an inspiration to me. Cancer took her from us way too soon, but she left behind a large legacy of great books that were set on the Gulf coast in the panhandle of Florida. Low Tide is the first book in her Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense series which launched her into the bestseller ranks. If you ask anyone who’s read her what makes her writing so special, they’ll all tell you it’s her uniquely crafted characters. The plots and the twists of her stories are top-notch as well, but the characters are simply amazing.

From the list:

The best coastal mystery & adventure novels

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Book cover of Creep

Creep

By Jennifer Hillier

Why this book?

I love a good story about a therapist having to not only battle her own demons but also her patients – and Creep has this covered. I went to bed thinking I’d start the book and read a few chapters – I ended up finishing it with only a few hours to spare before my alarm went off. 

From the list:

The best books that keep you up past your bedtime

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Book cover of The Girl I Used to Be

The Girl I Used to Be

By April Henry

Why this book?

In this book Ariel—AKA Olivia—is the daughter of a couple who was killed when she was a child. Olivia got away and was raised in foster care, but she’s always been haunted by what happened to her parents. The fact that his story was true crime fodder for the public doesn’t help, with many online speculations as to what really happened.

When new details arise in the case that make it seem as though the events of her parents’ deaths might not be what the public previously thought, Olivia is compelled to return home to her small Oregon hometown to…

From the list:

The best small town YA mysteries to keep you up all night

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Book cover of What Happened That Night

What Happened That Night

By Deanna Cameron

Why this book?

This is a dual-timeline murder mystery from a unique perspective. Without giving away too many spoilers, this story follows Clara, whose sister has been accused of murdering Griffin Tomlin—the “golden boy” who Clara once had a crush on.

There is a lot to unpack here, and the dual-timeline makes it a fascinating read; piece-by-piece, we slowly learn Clara’s past with Griffin leading up to the events of him being allegedly murdered by her sister. Why would Clara’s sister do such a thing? And was Griffin Tomlin really the “golden boy” he seemed to be? This story gets dark, and as…

From the list:

The best small town YA mysteries to keep you up all night

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Book cover of Kill the Boy Band

Kill the Boy Band

By Goldy Moldavsky

Why this book?

I’ve covered rock, classical, a capella, and new wave in my list, so I thought I’d round it out with sugar-sweet pop. Kill the Boy Band is a darkly hilarious journey into fangirl obsession filled with quirky characters and sitcom situations that are as fun to read as they are improbable. The boy band in question is The Ruperts, a quartet of British heart-throbs with an eerie resemblance to One Direction. When four superfans score a room in the hotel where The Ruperts are staying, they hatch a plan that goes awry fast, leaving the band with one fewer…

From the list:

The best YA books about girls who literally rock

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Book cover of Dark and Shallow Lies

Dark and Shallow Lies

By Ginny Myers Sain

Why this book?

Dark and Shallow Lies is the perfect atmospheric thriller if you crave a mystery festering with swampy paranormal undercurrents. Set in a small coastal Louisiana town, Grey returns home intent on finding out what happened to her best friend Elora who disappeared six months earlier. You get to meet the Summer Children, eleven (but there used to be more!) psychic children who all have different gifts, like Evie’s ability to listen to the dead, Hart’s empathy, and Case’s knack to be in two places at once. This is another one where I wasn’t sure who was the bad guy. The…

From the list:

The best YA mysteries that will have you channeling your inner Nancy Drew

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Book cover of Finlay Donovan is Killing It: A Mystery

Finlay Donovan is Killing It: A Mystery

By Elle Cosimano

Why this book?

A catastrophic misunderstanding inside a Panera leads to one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time! Finlay—the kind of mom who tapes her kid’s hair back into place after she has a fight with the scissors—is a hysterical narrator. Watching her bumble her way through a crime was an absolute delight! **Bonus: There’s some sexy stuff, too! Janet Evanovich readers will devour this series!!

From the list:

The best books for a hearty laugh

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Book cover of Bimbos of the Death Sun

Bimbos of the Death Sun

By Sharyn McCrumb

Why this book?

Travel back in time, reader, to the dark ages of the 1980s and a sci-fi convention full of eccentric gamers, puffed-up speakers, and fans unleashing their alter egos. And of course… murder. The hero, a professor with a surprise hit sci-fi book on his hands, is a charming fish out of water determined to do the right thing. Though the technology described in the book is dated, the quirky characters can still be found at any con today.

From the list:

The best funny cozy mystery novels

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Book cover of Home Before Dark

Home Before Dark

By Riley Sager

Why this book?

Remember The Amityville Horror? Welcome to Baneberry Hall. Maggie Holt spent twenty days living in Baneberry Hall when she was five but has no memory of what sent her family fleeing in the middle of the night. What she does know is that her father wrote a book that turned into a bestseller about the supernatural events which took place. “The book” has shaped her life ever since.

When she inherits the Baneberry Hall, she’s determined to get to the bottom of what really took place the night her family left. Alternating between past and present, the story unfolds…

From the list:

The best 2-fer supernatural mysteries with dual storylines

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Book cover of A Time to Kill

A Time to Kill

By John Grisham

Why this book?

The recounting of a harrowing ordeal of the father Carl Lee who avenged the rape of his 10-year-old daughter Tonya touched my heart. The manner in which Jake Brigance, the attorney who represents Carl Lee pleads the case and succeeds to save his client from punishment lingered in my heart for a very long time.

From the list:

The best books that tug at your heart and haunt you for days together

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Book cover of Rosemary and Rue

Rosemary and Rue

By Seanan McGuire

Why this book?

The October Daye series is a fun series featuring a sassy protagonist who has a penchant for getting into trouble with the supernatural, who are mostly fae from both the Seelie and UnSeelie courts. MaGuire weaves in a lot of fae mythology to buoy the plot that keeps each installment in the series fresh and thrilling. With endearing side characters and a charged romantic sub-plot, the series offers the (mostly) perfect escape from the prosaic world.
From the list:

The best books about the fae

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Book cover of The Echo Wife

The Echo Wife

By Sarah Gailey

Why this book?

Gailey gives us a narrator whose traumatic childhood seems to have blinded her to the fact that her work—she’s the world’s foremost expert in creating and murdering sentient clones—is an abomination. It turns out to be a good thing that she’s got a moral blind spot the size of Montana, though, because as the plot progresses she finds herself devoting her skills to the task of covering up the murder of her ex-husband, who has died at the hands of his mistress, who happens to be the narrator’s own illegally produced clone. In the hands of a less-skilled writer this…

From the list:

The best science fiction books about people who won’t stay dead

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Book cover of The Butterfly Clues

The Butterfly Clues

By Kate Ellison

Why this book?

I love mysteries with a sensitive protagonist who sees what no one else sees and cares enough to get at the truth when everyone else has dismissed it. Penelope Marin is dealing with grief by collecting trinkets. When she recognizes a trinket in a market stall that had belonged to a murdered young woman, she becomes obsessed with finding out the truth of what happened to her, even though it means putting herself into dangerous situations. Penelope (“Lo”) is brave and determined and doesn’t let anyone else’s disbelief stop her from caring about a murdered woman whom no one else…

From the list:

The best young adult thrillers with fearless brilliant teen sleuths

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Book cover of A Study in Charlotte

A Study in Charlotte

By Brittany Cavallaro

Why this book?

I love anything Sherlock Holmes. So a YA teen detective story with the present-day descendants of Sherlock Holmes with mysterious deaths to solve? The title alone got me, then when I read the blurb, I was on it. Sherlock Holmes’ great great great granddaughter, Charlotte Holmes, already a brilliant sleuth consulting with Scotland Yard and Jamie Watson, the great great great grandson of John Watson are in America where they have ended up in the same boarding school. When a student dies under mysterious circumstances, Jamie and Charlotte’s paths cross, throwing them together, and they can only trust each other…

From the list:

The best young adult thrillers with fearless brilliant teen sleuths

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Book cover of I Hunt Killers

I Hunt Killers

By Barry Lyga

Why this book?

This book is not for the faint of heart. It was gripping but also haunting. Jazz is the son of a convicted serial killer. He’s bright and good-hearted, yet lives in fear of what kind of psycho could be lurking in himself because of his parentage. When a woman is found dead near his town, he sees clues at the crime scene that the police miss but he knows are his father’s signature. He begins to investigate and as always happens, danger draws closer as the truth is unearthed. What I loved about this story was Jazz. A sympathetic character,…

From the list:

The best young adult thrillers with fearless brilliant teen sleuths

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Book cover of Ancient Appetites

Ancient Appetites

By Oisín McGann

Why this book?

A wildly imaginative tale from the wildly underrated writer, Oisin McGann. A lot of the ideas here stem from his fantastic artwork. (So impressed was I with the read, I Googled his webpage!)

The Wildenstern family is a power-hungry lot, set in a slightly removed, Steampunk/Dystopian idea of a long-ago Ireland. Competitive cousins, Gerald and Nate Wildenstern are wonderful characters, and Nate’s sister-in-law, Daisy, is quite the uppity aristocrat (you can’t help but like!).

There are wild animal-like machines, a lot of deaths, twisted family values, and mystery to be had within this book. Very much a page-turner. I am…

From the list:

The best fantasy & steampunk books with wildly worldly invention, highly questionable morals, & supreme ideas

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Book cover of A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

By T. Kingfisher

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…

From the list:

The best mysteries unlike any other

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One of Us Is Lying

By Karen M. McManus

Why this book?

First of all, as the list title promises, there is a ton of suspense. This book personally was one I didn’t think I’d get into at first. But the suspense, the bit of a mystery to unravel, all paired with the forbidden-ish romance between Nate and Bronwyn had me swooning. This one particularly did remind me of the romance between Lucas and Abby in my own book due to the near forbidden nature of it. They know they really shouldn’t be around each other or together at all. Yet, they can’t help themselves. This one, in the end, taught me…

From the list:

The best suspense books with a romance to die for – literally...someone is going to die

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Grown

By Tiffany D. Jackson

Why this book?

This is a bit of a cheat as I never questioned if the narrator of Grown is a psychopath–a murderer perhaps, and a wildly sympathetic one if so—but her “love interest” and abuser could qualify. As you watch a mega-famous musician entrap a teenaged, aspiring singer, it truly gets under your skin how closely his grooming mirrors common romance tropes. And once he’s killed, the plot ignites into an escalating series of twists that pushes the “unreliable narrator” device to its most mind-bending. Did Enchanted kill her abuser? Are we sort of glad? Mercifully, Grown leaves no loose ends, it…

From the list:

The best books with narrators that may or may not be psychopaths

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After Atlas

By Emma Newman

Why this book?

The second book in the Planetfall series. Emma Newman writes reflective and profound science fiction with characters trying to find their way in a complex future Earth society. 

After Atlas deals with events on Earth some years after the first colony mission has departed. There is a feeling of hope, and a fusion of science and religion that drives it, but really, the lives of people are as unequal as they are today. The main character, Carlos Moreno is a corporate slave, forced to work as an investigator. He is assigned to a case in a hotel in Dartmoor, England,…

From the list:

The best contemporary fantasy and science fiction books with new takes and fresh characters

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Book cover of The Return of Faraz Ali

The Return of Faraz Ali

By Aamina Ahmad

Why this book?

A brilliant novel with more than one mystery at its heart, with more than one truth about human emotions. Beautifully written, unflinching in its depiction of corruption and cruelty; lyrical in its evocation of loss and longing, love and survival. Faraz Ali, a young Pakistani police officer is sent to Shahi Mohalla, the red-light district of Lahore, where a girl has been murdered: not to solve the crime, but to cover it up. However, Faraz Ali has his own tormented history with the Mohalla. And, unknown to him his dimly remembered sister, the beautiful and fiery Rozina, is facing the…
From the list:

The best books by writers of colour

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Book cover of Crow's Row

Crow's Row

By Julie Hockley

Why this book?

The bad boy falls in love with the young innocent girl, and for her sake, he fully intends to keep her at a distance. The only problem is she won’t stay away. It’s the heart deep inside of the bad boy that we are always drawn to, that need to protect her, but finding she’s too stubborn for her own good so the only way to protect her is to be with her. 

From the list:

The best dark, twisted, and sexy books

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Book cover of When Blood Lies

When Blood Lies

By C.S. Harris

Why this book?

The information about France after the first defeat of Napoleon, and the seething unrest of the populace under the rule of the restored Bourbons is fascinating to someone like me who has always been passionate about history. C.S. Harris weaves her backstory into the tale without ever boring the readers.  

When Blood Lies is the 17th in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. It is set in France in 1815, after the fall of Napoleon, when the Bourbon dynasty has been once again been elevated to the throne of France. It is the Regency period in England, and the book has…

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The best historical novels about strong women surviving the restrictions society and men in their lives place upon them

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Bluebird, Bluebird

By Attica Locke

Why this book?

I’ve always been a huge fan of mystery novels, especially ones of the noir variety. Attica Locke brings this genre into rural East Texas with her series featuring Darren Mathews, a Black Texas Ranger. Bluebird, Bluebird kicks the series off with Mathews investigating two murders in a small town—a Black lawyer from Chicago and a White woman from the town of Lark. Locke crafts an incredibly satisfying and tense mystery while also exploring the complicated way race and racism thread into Mathews’ work in law enforcement and the town of Lark itself. Add in complex characterization and a stunningly atmospheric…

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The best books that show Texas isn't just about cattle and oil

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Book cover of Death Going Down

Death Going Down

By María Angélica Bosco, Lucy Greaves

Why this book?

An Agatha Christie-style mystery set in Buenos Aires. At two in the morning, Pancho Soler returns drunk to his apartment building on Santa Fe Avenue. He presses the button for the lift, and it arrives with a surprise inside: a beautiful blonde woman, sitting upright, but dead. Many of the suspects who live in the building are recent immigrants from Europe and, as the novel is set in the 1950s, their memories and secrets from WW2 are still fresh. Boris, a Bulgarian chemist who worked for the Nazis, is the most entertaining of the lot. There are the usual…

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The best crime novels set in Argentina

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Beauty and the Clockwork Beast

By Nancy Campbell Allen

Why this book?

This steampunk retelling of Beauty and the Beast has a delightfully dark humor perfect for gothic romance. Our heroine, Lucy, accepts her cousin Kate’s invitation to visit, a strange request for a newlywed who should be in the throes of wedded bliss, but Kate fears she’s being poisoned. When Lucy arrives, however, there is much more to contend with than her ailing cousin: the house is haunted, her in-laws are rude, and the man of the house—Kate’s new brother-in-law, Lord Miles—is rumored to have murdered both his sister and his late wife. But Lucy is accustomed to solving other people’s…

From the list:

The best sci-fi books that will melt your heart

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Book cover of A Killer in King's Cove

A Killer in King's Cove

By Iona Whishaw

Why this book?

Sometimes, I want to be transported to faraway, exotic places. But it can be equally delicious to experience a place you know well—in a time you don’t. It’s what attracted me to writing about 19th century New York, and what I love about Iona Whishaw’s Lane Winslow mysteries. They take place in the interior of British Columbia, Canada, a place I’ve spent plenty of time in. But sleuthing with ex-spy Lane Winslow in 1946 brings a fresh, fun perspective that is at once familiar and totally new. This book is perfect for curling up lakeside in an Adirondack chair,…

From the list:

The best books about lady sleuths and spies that will transport you back in time

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Book cover of The Quiet Game

The Quiet Game

By Greg Iles

Why this book?

The Quiet Game introduces a troubled Penn Cage, who returns with his daughter to his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi when his father lands in trouble. For Penn, family is sacrosanct. Iles uses Natchez brilliantly to support characterization, atmosphere, and plot. Events unfold quickly in a series of twists and turns that thrill the reader and severely test Penn as he struggles to unearth his father’s connection to a horrific Natchez mystery that the town is determined to keep buried. I admire how Penn battles relentlessly on behalf of his father, doggedly pursues a truth that frightens him, and protects his…

From the list:

The best thrillers about underdogs overcoming impossible odds

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Book cover of Red Bones

Red Bones

By Ann Cleeves

Why this book?

I’d like to recommend the whole Shetland series by Ann Cleves, which has been made into a gripping TV series. But if I had to pick one book, it’s Red Bones, about an archaeological find of human remains on one of the Shetland Islands. What I most like about this series is the atmospheric vibes given off by the Shetland Islands, so remote and unfamiliar to most readers that it’s like traveling to a foreign planet. And Cleeves’ detective hero, Jimmy Perez, whose Spanish name immediately marks him as an exception to any rules on the islands, pursues his…

From the list:

The best books to take you to unfamiliar places and raise your blood pressure

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Book cover of Bloody Murder

Bloody Murder

By Julian Symons

Why this book?

I’ve read Bloody Murder more times than any other non-fiction book. The first edition made a huge impression on me. Symons introduced me to countless fascinating authors and books (many of them obscure) which I’d never heard of and which have given me endless reading pleasure. Symons’ opinions were, and remain, controversial, and his disdain for ‘humdrum’ writing from the ‘Golden Age’ between the wars has attracted much criticism, some of it sensible, some of it over-the-top. His belief that the ‘detective story’ had metamorphosed into the ‘crime novel’ was eloquently argued, but I think mistaken. Today’s readers have just…

From the list:

The best books about crime fiction, the world’s most popular genre

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Book cover of The Inheritance

The Inheritance

By R. Franklin James

Why this book?

Hudson and Lowell Legacy Consultants is a genealogy business formed by Johanna Hudson. The first line of the novel reads, “... clients don’t consider… that genealogy outcomes can be disappointingly unpredictable.” This statement is a prelude to the conflict weaving throughout the novel as the protagonist becomes embroiled in murder. Johanna makes a career move to pursue a new business opportunity. I left clinical medicine to have more time for writing. It was a difficult choice because I enjoyed taking care of people.

From the list:

The best mystery novels for mature Black women

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Book cover of In the Dog House

In the Dog House

By V.M. Burns

Why this book?

After twenty-five years of marriage, Lilly’s husband, Albert, divorces her for a woman younger than their children. Following a contentious meeting with their lawyers, Lilly returns home contemplating a new life alone, until the police discover Albert murdered and determine Lilly makes a perfect suspect. Having ended a long-term relationship, I understood the conflict Lilly experienced. Lilly exhibits strength and resilience as she investigates her husband’s murder while planning her future. Those character traits helped me start over.

From the list:

The best mystery novels for mature Black women

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Book cover of Hourglass

Hourglass

By Myra McEntire

Why this book?

I’ll be completely honest, Hourglass sat on my bookshelf for years. I kept pushing it off, and pushing it off, until one day I took the plunge and read it. Why did I wait so long?

I fell in love with the main character Emerson. While she was immature I had to remember her age and she does progress as the book goes on. Emerson has visions and has a hard time dealing with them like any girl would. Her caring brother hires Michael who promises he can help control these visions. The two don’t exactly hit it off right…

From the list:

The time travel books you probably haven’t read

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Book cover of Mrs. Jeffries Rights a Wrong

Mrs. Jeffries Rights a Wrong

By Emily Brightwell

Why this book?

Many of the women in my family worked in domestic service. I do know that their work lives were not easy and their employers were often quite demanding. Still, each time I wander into the Victorian era where Mrs. Jeffries is housekeeper to Inspector Witherspoon of the Metropolitan Police, I imagine that my grandmother or my aunt is one of the household staff who Mrs. Jeffries organizes to do a “behind the scenes” investigation and provide the Inspector with the right clues to solve his cases.

From the list:

The best cozy mysteries featuring sleuths of a certain age

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Book cover of Hell of a Book

Hell of a Book

By Jason Mott

Why this book?

Mott surely earned his National Book Award for this! It discusses police brutality of Black people with a main character who is incapable of even acknowledging the latest shooting, and brings in questions like what art is, and what’s an artist’s responsibility to weigh in on these national conversations. The writing is stellar, the character is a little wonky in the best possible way, and the book itself is a page-turner. And if you go to my website, I have a link to where I had the honor of interviewing Mott for this book about a month before it won…

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The best recent books on secrecy and denial

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Book cover of August Snow

August Snow

By Stephen Mack Jones

Why this book?

Ex-cop August Snow scrabbles through the rubble of his beloved Detroit to solve a twisted murder case no one wants him to pursue. Snow is everything I like in my PIs: witty, empathetic, combat-ready, and damaged by life’s cruel blows. The action is extremely gritty, the social commentary dark and biting. The flavorful descriptions of Snow’s Mexicantown neighborhood and its contrast with the snooty suburbs tugged at my Midwestern heart.

From the list:

The best books featuring Black private eyes

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Book cover of First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt: Homicide in Chicago, 1875-1920

First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt: Homicide in Chicago, 1875-1920

By Jeffrey S. Adler

Why this book?

Lynching is central to the late 19th century and thus the theme that I explore in my recommendations, but Shepherd.com covers this tragic subject elsewhere. Instead, for my last book, I offer Adler’s study that explains the persistently high and even increasing rates of violence and homicide in Chicago during an era when varied modern social controls—urban reform, the discipline of the factory floor, expanding education and the bureaucratic state—swept over that city as they did over America, too. According to older theories about social turbulence and murder, these should have declined. Instead, the opposite was true, though the…

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The best books for understanding late-19th-century America through the prism of death, violence, and killing

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Book cover of Phantom Evil

Phantom Evil

By Heather Graham

Why this book?

So, I watch paranormal investigation programs. Religiously. The boo factor, the unknown? Yes, please! I devoured this book because it was the first of its kind to have a team of investigators like those shows with the added bonus of characters falling in love. Not to mention, it takes place in New Orleans! So much history, legend, and folklore there. It inspired me to write my own series like it. Also, Heather is one of the nicest, friendliest, down-to-earth authors I’ve ever had the chance to meet. We’ve done a few events together. The whole series is a must-read.

From the list:

The best paranormal romances with a ghostly twist

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Book cover of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

By Patrick Suskind

Why this book?

This novel opened my eyes to the potential scope of historical fiction. The story of an orphan with an extraordinary sense of smell who becomes a perfumer, and then a murderer, could only have been set in the past, where the smell of everything was all-pervading, especially in the bustling centre of Paris. An utterly seductive and unique page-turner.

From the list:

The best books that bring history to life

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Book cover of Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate

Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate

By Ginger Strand

Why this book?

This unlikely thriller of a book explores a seemingly bland subject: the network of interstate highways built by the Federal Government after World War II. In fact, these highways transformed American culture, not only spelling the demise of many country roads and small towns but replacing the friendly hitchhiker with the terrifying “killer on the road.” Further, the highways led to the creation of rest stops and shadowy neighborhoods that came to harbor predators, while the interstates aided the criminals’ flight. Killer on the Road keeps you on the edge of your seat, unfolding into horror, mystery, and victimization.

From the list:

The best books about American culture that will surprise you

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Book cover of Facets of Death

Facets of Death

By Michael Stanley

Why this book?

Michael Stanley is an author comprised of two writers: Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Their novels, set in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and featuring the enigmatic, Detective Kubu, have enjoyed much success in the UK and the US. Their latest story acts as a prequel, featuring Kubu just as he leaves university and joins Botswana’s CID. As a first case, Kubu is confronted with the theft of millions of dollars of diamonds, the execution of the robbers, a conniving witch doctor, and his son, and a case with international ramifications. Dark and thrilling.
From the list:

The best crime thrillers set in Africa

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Book cover of A Memory Called Empire

A Memory Called Empire

By Arkady Martine

Why this book?

A galactic empire. A space station on the outer fringes. Mysterious aliens coming from the darkness. I love how Arkady Martine’s twisty space opera is just teeming with life; she creates a world that seems so different from ours, but is instantly relatable. This story, of an ambassador dispatched from that remote station to the Empire she’s always admired, only to discover that her predecessor was murdered and the chip containing his memory sabotaged, kept me guessing throughout. Plus, you don’t want to miss the scene with some extemporaneous brain surgery.

From the list:

The best sci-fi novels overflowing with intrigue and mystery

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Book cover of Elatsoe

Elatsoe

By Darcie Little Badger, Rovina Cai

Why this book?

I encountered Darcie on the Cerebro podcast (a homo and his friends discuss the X-Men) and I was so taken by her insights, smarts, and obvious understanding of what makes a story tick. Elatsoe delivered on every one of those promises. Not only do you learn a ton about indigenous mythology, but the complexity and profundity of the world make it a must-read. Images so vividly depicted you can see why she’s such a good comic book writer also.  

From the list:

The best books that reimagine LGBTQIAP+ representation in fantasy/sci-fi

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Book cover of Last Rituals: A Novel of Suspense

Last Rituals: A Novel of Suspense

By Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Why this book?

This is a modern Icelandic Noir crime novel about a divorced personal attorney in Reykjavik who gets sucked into a horrific mystery at a university. It delves into Icelandic myth and Medieval black magic (the infamous Necropants make an appearance). I think it's very revealing about the frontier mentality that in some ways still persists in Iceland, and which saturates the Sagas. It's got a great sense of place and offers a nice cross-section of life in a modern Nordic country.

Also, it's really entertaining, and a little bit grotesque.

From the list:

The best books for understanding the Viking mindset and relationship with the world

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Book cover of This Is My America

This Is My America

By Kim Johnson

Why this book?

When Tracy Beaumont’s father is convicted for a murder he didn’t commit, she refuses to accept the verdict. Her unwavering determination to fight the long-standing racism in her small town shows the depth of its hateful history and its horrific impact on her father and family. This unforgettable, heartbreaking, and hopeful novel provides a mirror and window into the courage needed to fight against injustice.

From the list:

The best books empowering youth to speak up against hatred, bigotry, and injustice

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Book cover of Dead Girls

Dead Girls

By Abigail Tarttelin

Why this book?

This book is difficult to describe. One part crime, the other part literary fiction and narrated by a child, Dead Girls is unlike any other thriller I’ve read. I couldn’t put it down. When Thera’s best friend goes missing, despite being eleven years old, she decides the grown-ups are doing a bad job at finding Billie and begins investigating on her own. This is a super dark tearjerker about violence towards girls and women. But do check trigger warnings because this one is disturbing.

From the list:

The best books for fans of Gone Girl

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Book cover of Thirteen Hours: A Benny Griessel Novel

Thirteen Hours: A Benny Griessel Novel

By Deon Meyer, K.L. Seegers

Why this book?

I picked Thirteen Hours partly because it’s a good sample of the work of a major writer born, raised, and living in a part of the world different from ours. This book is probably the most suspenseful novel I’ve read in recent years, and it’s the novel I recommend to people who ask me how to write suspenseful books. Meyer is South African and writes in Afrikaans. It features Meyer’s great character Benny Griessel. The action is an American tourist running for her life from the people who killed her friend, and it’s one desperate chase that takes thirteen hours. 

From the list:

The best novels for learning how to write crime fiction

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Book cover of Titanshade

Titanshade

By Dan Stout

Why this book?

Carter is your typical noir detective—cynical and staring down a rocks glass. But Titanshade is far from a standard city. It’s gritty and brimming with all kinds of characters from those you think you know to new species whose spilled guts smell like cinnamon. I’m particularly fond of the blood magic readings. And when Carter is backed into a corner, this hardboiled dick may surprise you.

From the list:

The best dicks in urban fantasy (detectives, that is)

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Book cover of Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies

By Liane Moriarty

Why this book?

I love this book, and the resulting TV series, because of the way it deals with harrowing subjects while showing the three main characters as funny, intelligent, and strong women, instead of weepy loners who sit around day-drinking. And the fact that it is set around their children’s school hits home for me as someone who, for many years, only made new friends through my kids’ playdates and school plays. Especially as those other mums became a lifeline for me through some serious ups and downs.

From the list:

The best thrillers that shine a spotlight on female friendships

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Book cover of Unravelling Us

Unravelling Us

By Renée McBryde

Why this book?

Renee’s father was in jail for murder, and her mother never got over the shame. This book is about family secrets and how corrosive they can be, and also how a child survives a manipulative mother. I was floored by the wild level of pain a parent could inadvertently bestow on their child, but there is also much grace and love in this memoir. 

This book will be available May 2022.

From the list:

The best books about complicated mother and daughter relationships

Book cover of The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club

By Richard Osman

Why this book?

I love connections, and anyone who has read this book will understand how it is connected to the previous one. The Thursday Murder Club has done so much to promote the ‘older’ generation in the world of crime, and although there are several narrating voices, it is Elizabeth who stands out. I think what I like best about her is her kindness towards others – she never loses patience with anyone, even though she is usually a mile ahead of them in working out what is going on. I would love to see her come up against Lilian – it’s…

From the list:

The best crime novels with elderly female protagonists

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Book cover of The Armageddon Rag

The Armageddon Rag

By George RR Martin

Why this book?

Before Game of Thrones became a cultural touchstone, Martin was known as much for his horror novels as for his fantasy. The Armageddon Rag follows the reunion of 1960s prog-rock legends The Nazgul, who broke up after their lead singer, Patrick Hobbins, was assassinated onstage. When a wealthy promoter introduces the surviving band members to a Hobbins doppelganger who seems to be possessed by the spirit of the late vocalist, it becomes apparent that the Nazgul are the unwitting center of a ritual to bring darkness to a world that rejected the light and love of the Sixties. Vivid characters,…

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The scariest novels with a rock & roll influence

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Book cover of The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife

By David Ebershoff

Why this book?

I love escaping into a story, and if it is historical fiction, I want it to be historically accurate. By telling the story in both the present day and in the past, I was intrigued and this kept me reading. The novel is based on the experiences of a real woman living in polygamy but tells the story of what happened then and how it affects the lives of others later. It may be fictional, but the historical accuracy made the story come to life. I could feel her angst with being part of her family, but also knowing she…
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The best novels about escaping polygamist cults

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Book cover of 1979

1979

By Val McDermid

Why this book?

Thriller writer and contemporary ‘queen of crime’ Val McDermid draws deeply on her own years as a tabloid journalist to bring fictional reporter Allie Burns to life during the winter of discontent. This unputdownable tale of a newspaper investigation into matters of life, death, and corruption is so evocative of a 1970s Glasgow newsroom that I could practically smell the fags and taste the whisky. More Allie Burns stories are promised, and I for one can’t wait.

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The best books about journalists as heroes

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Book cover of A Study in Scarlet Women

A Study in Scarlet Women

By Sherry Thomas

Why this book?

Charlotte Holmes of the Lady Sherlock series is—next to Benedict Cumberbatch—the most wonderful, interesting, fascinating new version of Sherlock Holmes to show up so far this century. I’m not going to argue that Sherlock isn’t ‘real’—he’s more real than most people! Sherry Thomas has taken the extension of the Sherlock legend/motif/fanfiction to a greater height than previous authors, and I guarantee you will delight in Charlotte, her quirks and foibles, her keen mind, and her insatiable lust for pastries. Watson becomes “Mrs. Watson” and is a down-to-earth wonder as a sidekick for Miss Charlotte. Great additional cast of characters as…

From the list:

The best historical mysteries with famous people as the amateur sleuths

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Book cover of Hello, Transcriber

Hello, Transcriber

By Hannah Morrissey

Why this book?

I was immediately drawn into the frozen, gritty, Gotham-esque Midwestern city of Black Harbor, which aspiring author and police transcriber Hazel Greenlee now calls home. This moody mystery is a richly drawn account of Hazel’s life as she gets pulled into investigator Nikolai Kole’s orbit and his search for elusive drug dealer Candy Man. The streets of Black Harbor aren’t safe, nor is the rusted bridge where Hazel goes to contemplate her life, and they make the ideal backdrop for a story about secrets, trust, and taking risks.

From the list:

The best atmospheric mystery books that transport you to a dark and dangerous place

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Book cover of The Husbands

The Husbands

By Chandler Baker

Why this book?

A woman moves to a new neighborhood where all the wives are high-powered, and their husbands are… suspiciously helpful. How come none of them seem to mind doing all the chores?? And how much will our heroine — whose own husband isn’t pulling his weight — be willing to give up to join her successful neighbors? Baker’s novel is full of Stepford Wives-esque fun.

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The best books about communities with cult-like tendencies

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Book cover of Dancers in Mourning

Dancers in Mourning

By Margery Allingham

Why this book?

Few authors could delver more perfectly into characters than Allingham. Although she created excellent puzzles, the beauty of her books is in the incisive portrayals. Here, she does a magnificent job of stripping away the glamour and finding the pride and jealousy behind the lively theater world. And it's impossible not to be engaged by the shrewd and mysterious sleuth, Albert Campion.

From the list:

The best mysteries in the theatre world

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Book cover of Give the Devil His Due

Give the Devil His Due

By Sulari Gentill

Why this book?

I like the historical setting of Gentil’s books (mainly 1930s Australia, although her characters venture overseas in a couple of the books) and the original newspaper clippings that introduce the chapters, which give you a glimpse of current affairs that form the backdrop to the story. Personally, I also enjoy the fact that her protagonist is an artist, albeit one with a wealthy family behind him. There’s danger, disapproving family, Blackshirts, unrequited love, and above all, staunch friendships; Rowland and his mates are people you wish you could hang out with. Give the Devil His Due is the seventh book…

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The best crime books set in Australia

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Book cover of The Neon Rain

The Neon Rain

By James Lee Burke

Why this book?

The first in the series of Dave Robicheaux novels, this is handled quite well. The main character is very human, flawed by his own admission by a battle with an addiction to alcohol, but nonetheless is a tough and competent cop who definitely sees—and knows well—the seedier side. Set in the deep south, Burke takes you there with description that is so evocative that you can feel it with every sense, and the danger as the story unravels into a tale of corruption and bloody violence. I really wanted the main character to win this battle and it was one…

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The best books for the steep cliff page-turners

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Book cover of The Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel

By Isaac Asimov

Why this book?

Asimov wrote this novel way back in 1953, after an editor insisted that mystery and science fiction were incompatible genres. While some aspects of the story are understandably dated, it shows a remarkable amount of creativity and imagination given the year it was written. It introduced the “buddy cop” trope, but with one human detective and a robot (R. Daneel Olivaw, one of the great sci-fi characters), who must abide by Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”. Like all of Asimov’s work, it’s well-written, a great read, and, in my opinion, perhaps the true genesis of the Sci-Fi/Detective genre.

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The best novels that combine science fiction and detective stories

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Book cover of Missing Susan

Missing Susan

By Sharyn McCrumb

Why this book?

Imagine being in a tour group with the most annoying person in the world, Susan. Every tour group has that one person who talks non-stop about things that don’t matter. The difference here is that the tour guide Rowan Rover is an inept hitman who can’t seem to bump Susan off. An added element of fun is that the group is touring England’s most famous murder sites. When I was learning to write mysteries, I had two prominent influences, Sue Grafton and Sharyn McCrumb. Both taught me how to construct a solid mystery. Sue Grafton opened my eyes to the…

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The best books that made me laugh out loud

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Book cover of A Death of No Importance

A Death of No Importance

By Mariah Fredericks

Why this book?

I think Jane Prescot is the perfect sleuth for this story of old money versus new money in 1910 New York City. She is a ladies’ maid to the new money Benchley daughters and she’s determined to keep them out of trouble. Her task becomes more difficult when Charlotte Benchley’s brand new fiancée is murdered. 

Jane is uniquely positioned to move through the city streets as well as into the homes of the upper crust. She’s smart, resourceful, and tenacious, but it’s her loyalty to her not-so-nice employers that had me rooting for her to uncover the killer. It definitely…

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The best female sleuths of the Gilded Age

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Book cover of The Ides of April

The Ides of April

By Lindsey Davis

Why this book?

Reading a Lindsey Davis novel is a guilty pleasure. Why? She’s wickedly funny. She brings ancient Rome to vivid life, from the fancy fringe on a tunic hem to the steaming pile of donkey dung in the street. Her sleuth, a tough, no-nonsense woman named Flavia Albia, is assisted (whether she likes it or not) by an extended family of eccentric and sometimes meddlesome characters. I also appreciate how Davis adds just enough historical detail to bring the plot to life without bogging down the action. 

In this book, I particularly enjoyed the interplay between Albia and the officious aedile,…

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The best female sleuth mysteries from centuries past

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Book cover of Masterpieces of Murder: The Best True Crime Writing from the Best Chroniclers of Murder

Masterpieces of Murder: The Best True Crime Writing from the Best Chroniclers of Murder

By Jonathan Goodman

Why this book?

This collection features a range of stories, a range of time and places, written by many of the best true-crime writers. Goodman, himself a master storyteller, has pulled together a wide sampling of all manner of crimes stories, all well-told. Goodman wisely included his own likely solution to one of my favorite unsolved crimes, the Liverpool case of Julia Wallace, which has fascinated novelists from Raymond Chandler to Dorothy L. Sayers and P.D. James.

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The best true crime books for those who (think they) don’t like true crime

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Book cover of Savage Appetites: True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession

Savage Appetites: True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession

By Rachel Monroe

Why this book?

Women are the top consumers of true crime. But why, when the stories so often feature women as victims of violence? New Yorker journalist Rachel Monroe profiles four different women in the roles of Detective, Victim, Defender, and Killer to see what it’s all about. The reporting and context in this book are staggering, and Monroe’s writing is both critical and empathic. 

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The best true crime-adjacent books

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Book cover of Merit Badge Murder

Merit Badge Murder

By Leslie Langtry

Why this book?

The murder and the laughs in this mystery begin on page one—which is no mean feat. Retired CIA agent Merry Wrath is now leading an Iowa girl scout troop. A murdered Al Qaeda operative tangled in the ropes course puts her back on the case again… and with her old and very attractive handler. Add in a handsome detective, and the sparks and laughs are flying in this good-natured and well-plotted romp.

From the list:

The best funny cozy mystery novels

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Book cover of A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas

A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas

By Erica Vetsch

Why this book?

I love a book that teaches me something, and A Brides Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas taught me a lot, from photography (complete with technical descriptions that somehow weren’t too dry!) during the late 1800s/early 1900s to laws about women (they differed by territory). I appreciated that although Adeline was a strong protagonist, she wasn’t “modern” or behaved in ways that didn’t fit with her time period. There was an element of mystery to the story when her shop is vandalized, and I enjoyed trying to solve the whodunit. I have read this book multiple times.

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The best historical novels with female protagonists in unusual jobs

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Book cover of Absolute Power

Absolute Power

By David Baldacci

Why this book?

You may have seen the movie, but the book blows it away. They chopped out characters and stories to make a sleek tight movie. The book is so much more.

It has one of the greatest openings I have ever read. I dare you to read the first chapter and walk away. You won’t walk far. This thrilling opening sucks you in from the first paragraph. I won’t summarize it here, I can’t. I want you to experience exactly what I experienced.

It was Baldacci’s first. He mashed up a thriller, a mystery, politics, twists, and turns into something I…

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The best thriller novels that break the mold, surprising you with their unexpected approach, characters and story

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Book cover of Murder at Melrose Court: A 1920s Country House Christmas Murder

Murder at Melrose Court: A 1920s Country House Christmas Murder

By Karen Baugh Menuhin

Why this book?

In this historical mystery set in the 1920s, the hero-narrator is likable and a bit goofy. He reminded me of Bertie Wooster in the Jeeves stories by PG Wodehouse, but Heathcliff is more intelligent. The mystery was complicated and puzzling, with added fun from the 1920s setting. It’s hard to investigate when phone lines are down and roads become impassable in poor weather. I've read the rest of the series, and they’re all pretty strong. Some move the action to Scotland or Egypt for extra 1920s travel excitement. They’re perfect reads when you want a light cozy with historical charm…

From the list:

The best mystery series when you need a laugh

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Book cover of The Blooding: The Dramatic True Story of the First Murder Case Solved by Genetic "Fingerprinting"

The Blooding: The Dramatic True Story of the First Murder Case Solved by Genetic "Fingerprinting"

By Joseph Wambaugh

Why this book?

The Blooding recounts a gripping true tale of murders in the picturesque English countryside-but aside from its haunting atmosphere, it is a detailed account of the beginning of DNA as a crime-solving technique. We have come a long way since the mid-1980s, and we can get much more information from newer DNA methods, but the detailed explanation of exactly how this worked as a revolutionary method is invaluable. Reading this book puts the reader at the very beginning of a revolution.
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The best books since the beginning of crime

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Book cover of The Cost of Silence

The Cost of Silence

By John Nixon

Why this book?

The Cost of Silence begins with the murder of a genealogist. Have they been silenced before they could uncover something inconvenient? Twenty-three years later, can genealogist Madeline Porter retrace the research of the dead genealogist and uncover a motive for his murder? More to the point, will she put herself in danger if she does?

From the list:

The best genealogical mystery novels

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Book cover of We Were Never Here

We Were Never Here

By Andrea Bartz

Why this book?

Andrea Bartz’s twisty tale about two friends (aptly compared to Thelma and Louise), dead bodies piling up around them, and secrets they hold from the past is a fresh backdrop for a genre that has been dominated by domestic set-ups. Delving into the complexities of female friendships and how they can control and define us, I found this to be a thoroughly engaging read. A New York Times Bestseller and Hello Sunshine Book Club pick, you can’t go wrong with We Were Never Here!

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The best page-turning books to pass the time during a global pandemic

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Book cover of Auxiliary: London 2039

Auxiliary: London 2039

By Jon Richter

Why this book?

Auxiliary is one of my favorite cyberpunk books of all time. It’s a detective story set in London in a not-so-distant future. While this alone sounds like nothing too original, you can trust me that the story is unique! Auxiliary is set in a world where automation has sent the majority of humans into unemployment and a seemingly benevolent super-AI takes care of everything for everyone. Until it becomes the suspect in a murder case…

The author also writes horror and Auxiliary features one of the scariest robots I’ve ever seen. But the scariest part about the book is how…

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The best cyberpunk books you won’t be able to put down

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