Linda’s Top Mysteries

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For several years the library staff has chosen their top 5 reads for each year. These stories are my top mysteries from those years. I highly recommend them

Top Reads 2023

The Maid/Nita Prose

The main character in this book, Molly the Maid, is neurodivergent, probably on the autism spectrum. She is socially awkward because she has a difficult time reading people, and she loves cleanliness.  Everyday she goes happily to her job in an upscale hotel with the goal of returning everything to a “state of perfection”. One day while cleaning rooms in the hotel, she discovers the body of a very wealthy powerful man. Molly’s unique outlook and attention to detail make her a key witness. Her lack of the expected emotional response to such a crime, make her the main suspect. The weak point in this book is the shoddy police investigation that led to her arrest. It hardly mattered though, because Molly, and her allies, were able to bring about justice, at least Molly’s idea of justice. There were twists at the end that I never saw coming, and, at least in this case, all’s well that ends well.

Reflecting the Sky/S.J. Rozan

Chinese-American PI, Lydia Chin, and her partner, Bill Smith, are sent to Hong Kong to deliver an inheritance to the family of a Chinese-American businessman. Unknown on either side of the Pacific, Mr. Wei had two families, one in New York and one in Hong Kong. Even so, this should have been a fairly easy assignment, and a chance for Lydia to see firsthand the culture of her ancestors. The situation becomes much more complicated when they arrive to discover that the young man receiving the inheritance has been kidnapped. Ordered not to involve the police, Lydia and Bill must find the boy and figure out just what is going on behind the quiet front of the Wei’s Import/Export company. The boy’s life, and their own, may depend on it.

Lightning Strike/William Kent Krueger

This is a prequel to the Cork Corcoran mystery series that takes place in northern Minnesota, in the small town of Aurora. Twelve year old Cork idolizes his father, Liam, the town sheriff. But when Cork and his friend Jorge find Big John Manydeeds hanging from a tree, all that begins to change. Just outside the Ojibwe Indian Reservation, tensions have always existed between the town and the Rez, but the death of Big John Manydeeds brings those tensions near the boiling point. Cork’s mother is half Ojibwe and his grandmother full blood. Even within his own home anxiety is high. To Cork, everything seems to be changing before his very eyes, and he doesn’t like it one bit. This is a coming of age story as much as it is a complex murder mystery. The characters are fully formed, the issues contemporary, and the mystery will keep you guessing until the end. Oh, and don’t plan on going to bed until it’s finished.

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers/Jesse Q Sutanto

What happens when an elderly Asian woman finds a dead body in her teashop one morning?  Well, if that woman is Vera Wong, hilarity ensues. Vera is fierce, a traditional Asian mother. She expects everyone to fall in line, and they do. Before long Vera has four suspects, all who seem to have something to hide. But is it murder? As Vera searches for the truth, she becomes involved in the lives of her suspects, and doesn’t want any of them to be guilty. Somehow, in her wisdom, Vera makes all their lives better. This book has many humorous moments, and some poignant ones too. You will love these characters, especially Vera, and you’ll never guess who did it.

The Last Devil to Die/Richard Osman

This is the fourth book in this series featuring the lovely characters at the Cooper’s Chase Retirement Village. They  are the members of the Thursday Mystery Club, a group of seniors who meet every Thursday to discuss old unsolved crimes. Somehow current murders always take precedence. Each one has been in my top 5 on the year it came out. This one surpasses them all, in my opinion. It has the quirky characters we have all come to love. It has a complex mystery to solve. There are plenty of laughs as well. And it packs a punch you won’t see coming. It is written beautifully and with genuine insight. You won’t soon forget this one.

Top Reads 2022

The Murder of Mr. Wickham/ Claudia Gray

This was a delightful read.  The setting is a house party at a country estate in England in 1820. A number of the guests are characters drawn from the novels of Jane Austen, including Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, and Colonel Brandon and his wife Marianne. The house party had just gotten underway when Mr. Wickham, (from Pride and Prejudice) walks in uninvited. It seems everyone there has reason to hate him. When he turns up dead, there is no lack of suspects. Ms. Gray captured the mood and manners of the Regency Era very authentically, from my meagre knowledge, and I was happily immersed in the lives of the inhabitants of the house. With so many suspects, it was a challenge to discover the murderer, and it was near the end that I finally figured it out. Reading this book was a wonderful escape from the 21st century. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Bullet that Missed/ Richard Osman

The third book in the Thursday Murder Club reunites us with the lovely characters at the Cooper’s Chase Retirement Village. These characters sneak right into your heart and take hold there. There are plenty of laughs and many poignant moments too. I laughed out loud and cried a little too. If you’re of a certain age, you will recognize yourself here, and if you’re young and want to understand your parents or grandparents, this is the book to read. To top it all off there is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery, as well. Prepare to be entertained.

Before She Disappeared/Lisa Gardner

Frankie Elkins is an alcoholic. She’s in recovery, but every day brings a new challenge to decide to stay sober, and her past is dragging her down. To keep her own demons at bay, Frankie chases other demons. She finds missing people., 14 so far, but none of them alive. She’s getting desperate. She needs a win, even more than she needs a drink. There is a teenage Haitian girl in Boston, who has been missing for months. The police have gotten nowhere. But there is something about Frankie. She somehow knows the right questions, and begins to get answers. There is way more to this story than originally thought, and Angelique isn’t the only girl missing. The police think Frankie is in way over her head, and perhaps she is. The danger gets closer and closer. Will Frankie get the girls back alive, or will she join the missing?

Top Reads 2021

Best Laid Plans/Gwen Florio

The protagonist is a woman in her 50’s suddenly confronted with her husband’s infidelity. Her life changes in an instant, and she just reacts without thinking. Nora jumps in their brand new truck and luxury RV and just takes off. She has never driven anything so huge and so powerful before. After an exhausting overnight drive she finds herself in a campground in Wyoming, next to a vibrant young couple who befriends her instantly. But how friendly are they really? When the husband disappears, apparently eaten by a bear, the real mystery begins and Nora realizes she is in way over her head. With her husband, Joe, on her heels and a nasty sheriff on her back, she experiences a life more a nightmare than the dream come true she had anticipated. Did a bear really eat Brad? Should she go back to Joe? What does she want out of life now? Most importantly, how can she escape going to prison for a murder she didn’t commit?

Thursday Murder Club/Richard Osman

This mystery takes place in and around a retirement village in England. The Thursday Mystery Club is a group of seniors who met every Thursday to discuss unsolved crimes. Then a murder occurs right in their neighborhood. The four friends decide to put their skills to good use to solve the murder. The mystery is solid, the characters real, and somewhat humorous. The book also gives insights into the thoughts and feelings of those being put ‘out to pasture’. Anyone over retirement age will identify with these characters, and anyone who has older parents or grandparents will get a glimpse of their lives.

Widows of Malabar Hill/Sujata Massey

This mystery is set in 1920’s India. Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s only female lawyer, works for her father because India has not yet recognized women to the Bar. On the death of a wealthy mill owner, Perveen is sent to confer with his three widows, in order to assure that they each receive their rightful inheritance. However, the male guardian placed over them is murdered, and Purveen becomes determined to find the truth and make sure the women receive the best outcome for their future. Expertly winding two narratives together, the author takes us along with Perveen on her investigation, while telling us her story and revealing why she cares about these women so much. In the process we get a clear picture of Colonialism and traditional Indian life in that time, as well as what life was like for the women of India.

The Man Who Died Twice/Richard Osman

This is the second book in the Thursday Murder Club series. (See above) It picks up within days of the first one ending and continues the story of the seniors living in a retirement community in the British countryside. It delves more into the background of Elizabeth, who was a former M16 agent. All the main characters continue, and knowing them already, makes the book even more delightful. The Thursday Club members find themselves embroiled in cases with local police and they work their magic on current M16 agents. Their antics are amusing and poignant, as they prove once again that age is not an accurate indicator of capability. There is a twist at the end that you may not see coming.

Top Reads 2020

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny
It seems that every year Penny’s books are in my top 5, and this one may be her best ever.  For the first time the setting is outside Quebec, in Paris, where we get a taste of neighborhoods and daily life. We also get a good look into the history of the Gamache family and the dynamics of their relationships. Every member of the family gets involved with this one. Once again Armand’s character is tested to the extreme. Will he, can he, do the right thing, even if his family’s lives are at stake? The mystery is as contemporary as today’s headlines and the plot intricate. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, intelligent and clever, holding my attention and building suspense right up to the explosive climax. I didn’t know who the villains were until the smoke cleared. If I could, I’d give this one 10 stars.

The Red Door by Charles Todd
This makes an even dozen in the Inspector Rutledge series, set in post WWI Britain. We start with a young wife from a small village, longing for her husband to come home from the war. She paints the front door red as a welcome home surprise for him. Then we visit a married man in London, going to the bank. On the way home he has an overwhelming fear for his young son, and lapses into panic and paralysis. Thus begins the knot that Ian Rutledge has to untangle. What do these two have in common and how does that set off a string of deaths encompassing the distance between them? This case is well plotted, intricate, and beautifully written. Beware the red herring. I never guessed the culprit. I give this one 5 stars.

The Stranger Diaries by Ellie Griffiths

This is a stand-alone book by the author of the Ruth Galloway mystery series. It is quite the departure from her usual fare, having a definite gothic feel to it, dark and brooding. Clare Cassidy is teaching a course on her favorite gothic writer R. M. Holland. The book opens with the beginning of one of his old stories, two men on a train and the story of a secret society and unexplained death at the school where Clare teaches. Then we move to the present time and real life. Clare’s best friend is killed. Next to her body is a note from that story. From there the story is told from three different perspectives, Clare’s, the detective’s, and Clare’s daughter, intertwined with the telling of the original fictional story. Those perspectives and the story that started it all are expertly interwoven into a seamless mystery that will hold you captive until the end. It is suspenseful and a little spooky. As an aside, also interesting to me was the assumption on the part of Clare about the thoughts of the other two people, and what they were actually thinking, and vice versa. It was a study in how we think we know what others are thinking based on our own state of mind. It was brilliantly done – 5 stars.

Enola Holmes

This Netflix movie rated PG13 and written, it seemed to me, with teens in mind, was quite original and fun to watch. Enola is Sherlock’s little sister, left in the care of Mycroft after her mother’s disappearance. Mycroft intends to send her away to a finishing school to make a proper young lady of her. That, however, is not what Enola wants. So, of course, she runs away, hoping to find her mother. Along her way she encounters a young man about her age who has also run away from his family, whose motives toward the young man do not appear honorable. And the game’s afoot!  Enola is every bit as clever as her brother. Acting as protagonist and narrator she leads us on a merry adventure filled with excitement and danger. This movie is a great escape from the stresses of our time. I give it 5 stars.

Top Reads 2019

Long Time Gone by J.A. Jance
This is the 17th Book in this series featuring Seattle detective J.P. Beaumont. I had read the earlier ones years ago and somehow lost track of them. I had forgotten what good books they are. The stories are complete and complex as are her characters. This one is a page turner, full of twists and turns. It’s a very quick read. I finished it in a day. Her characters have grown and matured over the years and their relationships are deep. It might be good to read the first in the series to get a little background on them. Jance’s writing is so good, I was immersed in the setting and felt a part of the story, along for the ride, observing the chase. No, not observing, experiencing. It was a wild ride.

The Shaman’s Game by James D. Doss
With a full cast of complex and interesting characters, this book will immerse you in the culture and traditions of the Ute Nation in Colorado. Horace Antelope dies in the midst of a Dances Thirsty ritual, just as he taps into the power of The Great Mysterious One. He was old and dehydrated and exhausted from the demanding rite. His even older mother, Popeye Woman, dies of a heart attack from the shock. But there is much more here than meets the eye. Ute detective, Charlie Moon, spurred on by his own instincts and the spiritual insights of his Shaman Aunt Daisy, investigates what appears to be a death by natural causes. Suspects abound. Can Charlie Moon find the truth before anyone else dies?

Dave Slater series by P.F. Ford
I found this series free on Kindle and have enjoyed them very much. The author apparently went for years, unable to get published and I don’t understand why. These are delightful cozy British detective mysteries. They flow right along and are quick reads. I love the characters. They are quirky, but intelligent and well suited to their jobs, and their relationships have humorous consequences even in the middle of their serious work. In each new volume, the plots get more complicated. So I recommend you go for a ride-along with DS Dave Slater and his partner, DS Norman Norman. (yes, really.) You won’t regret it. We are now beginning to carry them in the library.

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
This is the first installment of a new series written by the author of the Shetland and Vera Stanhope series. We meet Detective Matthew Venn as he stands in a church yard watching the funeral of his father. He is not welcome there. Little does he know he will soon be involved with his estranged family and church, soon enough. A body is found on the beach. The victim is recognized by a local young woman with Down’s Syndrome as someone who has befriended her on the bus. Then, a friend of hers goes missing from the same day center that she attends, the one managed by his husband, Jon. This girl is also the daughter of Matthew’s mother’s friend, a member of the strict church that rejected him. Now it’s Matthew’s job to put all the pieces together and solve this puzzle, hopefully before another body turns up. Ms. Cleeves’ great talents at creating characters, scenes, and complex plots, once again presents a compelling, suspenseful novel you won’t want to put down.

Shetland, Season 5 – DVD This series, based on the books by Ann Cleeves has beautiful scenery, complex characters, and intense plots. The acting is top notch and the stories riveting. This particular season delves into the subject of human trafficking, and tests the mettle of all our favorite characters. If you haven’t seen any of these, you may want to start at the beginning. The books are also wonderfully written. Try them too.

In honor of Topsham Public Library’s 15th anniversary(June 2019) I have chosen my Top 15 DVD Mystery Series (coincidentally all BBC)

Doctor Blake Mysteries
Father Brown
Foyles War
Inspector Lewis
Loch Ness
Midsomer Murders
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Mrs. Bradley Mysteries
Murdoch Mysteries
New Tricks
Silent Witness

Top Reads 2018

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
I can’t help it! This Inspector Gamache book just has to jump to the top of the list. Louise Penny never disappoints. She has painted her characters with deep strokes and they just keep growing into themselves. There are no wasted words in her books and every sentence has depth beyond the obvious. This one is one of my favorites, as Gamache seeks to undo the consequences of his last investigation. The stakes are higher than ever. Just how far is Armand willing to go to stop the carnage? And why did a woman known as “the Baroness” make him an executer to her will, when he had never met her? Once again, I recommend that if you have not read these, you might want to start at the beginning of the series and read in order. The subplots running throughout the series make it far more interesting that way.

Behind Closed Doors by JJ Marsh
This is the first book in a series about Beatrice Stubbs, a British detective. Having been involved in ‘an incident’ Beatrice’s career has been stalling. Her superior knows that she is an exemplary officer and he assigns her to a puzzling case. Four high powered men have died on the continent and he sends Beatrice to head up the investigation. But can she trust herself? And can she prevent the next murder? This is an exciting romp around Europe after a clever and efficient killer. Beatrice Stubbs is a well drawn character, flawed though she is, and I found myself rooting for her all the way.

The Dry by Jane Harper
This mystery takes place in Australia, in a small farming town devastated by a multi-year drought. The people are struggling and tensions are already high when a young family is killed in an apparent murder/suicide. To make matters worse, the town bad boy, turned cop, returns for the funeral of his friend. Of course, not all is as it seems and a 20 year old case may be bleeding into the present. Jane Harper sets the scene well, placing the reader right in the dust with the characters and there are no easy answers. This isn’t a happy story but it is a good one.

Murder on the Oxford Canal by Faith Martin
This quintessential British police procedural is the first in a series previously published in Britain and more recently in the U.S. DI Hilary Greene was married to another DI, Ronnie Greene, who was recently killed. However, everyone knows that Ronnie was dirty and made millions in tainted money. Now circumstances have put DI Greene in charge of her own murder case, which she is determined to solve in order to save her own career and see justice done, while ducking the attentions of internal affairs. Her team is a varied group including the young sergeant who has a crush on her, a female sergeant, aspiring to greater things, including hooking up with the Chief Inspector who oversees their unit, and an old-school detective who was almost certainly her wayward husband’s right hand man. All of this makes for an interesting stew of events, leading to an exciting climax.

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen
This twelfth in the Her Royal Spyness series is pure charm and delight. Could Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line to the British throne, actually be marrying the Honorable Darcy Fitzwilliam, handsome man of her dreams? With wedding arrangements getting more complicated by the minute and a secret assignment from the Queen on her mind, Georgiana is not so sure. And where are they going to live on their paltry earnings? Just in time Georgiana receives a letter from one of her mother’s past husbands, giving her his family home to manage in his absence. When she arrives to take residence something does not seem quite in order there and thus the adventure begins. Who is the new butler and who actually hired him? What are those strange noises from the closed off wing? And where are the family heirlooms she remembers from her childhood? Even more importantly, will she still be alive for her wedding day?

Top Reads 2017

Glass Houses by Louise Penny: Once again Ms. Penny is number 1! Her use of historical knowledge and classical literature build a frame for the exploration of human nature and our deepest motives. She is an incredible wordsmith turning and twisting words into succinct declarations with the tap of one letter – “clever, cleaver words” that cut straight to the heart of the matter. She uses simple children’s rhymes to remind us what we all know, but don’t want to think about. Once again her plot is tight and complex, taking us to the brink and pulling us back again with a sudden burst of humor. Inspector Gamache and his entire cast of characters are at their finest in a deadly match with infinite risk and consequences for the idyllic Three Pines and those they love most.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan: A down and out young man hangs himself in the attic of the bookstore and is found by Lydia, one of the cashiers. He was one of her favorites and the tragedy hits her hard. Why would Joey do that? Things get really strange when Joey’s landlady finds Lydia and tells her she is Joey’s contact person and she has to come get his stuff. In his belongings Lydia finds a picture of her 10 year old self on her birthday. Lydia has a secret past that no one is supposed to know about. How did Joey get this picture and what did he know about her? These questions lead Lydia on a return journey to the worst moment of her life; the murder of her childhood friend, Carol, which has never been solved. The plot carries this book with plenty of twists to confound and puzzles to unravel. This book reminds us that every action we take sets in motion a ring of consequences, for good or for evil.

Pulse by Felix Francis: This book made my 2017 Top Books list for one reason only – it surprised me! In some respects it is quintessential Francis, horses, racing, murder, tough protagonist. It was like visiting an old friend and quite enjoyable, until several pages in – a brand new twist, one I never saw coming. This hero is flawed, like most, but in a rather unique way. It took me places I’ve never been and gave me new insights into human frailty and strength. Felix Francis would make his father proud with this one.

Demon Spirit, Devil Sea by Charlene D’Avanzo: My favorite thing about this book is the setting. It takes place on an island off the coast of British Columbia in Canada and centers around the culture of the native people there and the impact of global climate change on their lives and the choices they face. Once again Ms. D’Avanzo educates through entertainment. The story was engaging, catching me up in the swirling waters of the first kayak trip and carrying me through to the conclusion. Her protagonist, Mara Tusconi is quickly becoming my friend. I admire her principles and her courage in carrying them out. This is the second book in this series and I can’t wait for the next one.

Loch Ness: I just discovered this DVD in our collection. It is brand new and it is quite a treat. In a way it reminds me of Broadchurch because it takes place in a small village, in which everyone has secrets. Once again we are dealing with a cunning serial killer. This first season kept me on the edge of my seat, so to speak. If I had the time I would have watched all six episodes in one sitting. The acting is very good and I didn’t guess the killer until the final reveal.

Top Reads 2016

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny – Once again Ms. Penny hits one out of the park. This is the twelfth in the Inspector Gamache series and does not disappoint. Does Armand also have secrets he does not wish revealed? In this installment the inspector is the Master Chess player, moving characters around in ways that will reveal their best, and worst, selves. This book was a delight to read. After twelve books Louise Penny still excels at inspiring and surprising her readers. If you have read this far into this series you will certainly enjoy this episode. If you have not read these, it will serve you well to start at the beginning and read them in order. It’s a delightful, complex, and fulfilling journey full of action, excitement, and twists that will keep you guessing throughout the series.

Poison Flower by Thomas Perry – This is a great thriller. I couldn’t put it down, read it in one day. Jane Whitefield, Seneca Native, helps people disappear when they are in danger using finely honed gifts and techniques passed down through the centuries by her ancestors. In this story, Jane attempts to rescue a wrongly convicted man from the courthouse but this time she makes a mistake. Would she pay for it with her life? See Jane run. Run, Jane, run!

The Chill of the Night by James Hayman – It is the middle of winter and brutally cold, when a frozen body is found in the trunk of a car at the Portland Fish Pier. It’s a well-known young attorney hoping to make partner in a high-powered local firm. On the night of the murder a young woman, known to be mentally unstable, shows up at the small police station on a nearby island, telling the tale of a grisly murder she witnessed, but the cop on duty doesn’t believe her. Now she is missing too. Portland Police Detective Michael McCabe is on the hunt, hoping to find Abby Quinn before the killer does. This fast-paced suspense filled mystery will keep you reading in front of the fire right up to the last page.

Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley – Flavia is a precocious (but not obnoxious) child of the manor born. Her life hasn’t been easy though. Her mother died giving her birth and her two older sisters tease her mercilessly. Flavia has gained the upper hand, ever since she discovered her uncle’s chemistry lab in the attic and learned how to create her own diversions. She also discovers bodies all over town. She and her trusty bicycle, Gladys, travel the county following the clues wherever they take her. With her unwitting ally, Chief Inspector Hewitt, and her father’s man, Dogger, no criminal is safe. Now a teenager, Flavia is growing into a young woman, but as astute as always, she solves the crime. Flavia is a delightful character who will capture your heart and keep your attention with her fearless attitude and her sleuthing skills. Mr. Bradley does a phenomenal job of bringing this child to life and describing the essence of a growing girl. And man can he turn a pretty phrase.

Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen – This is a light, charming British mystery that takes place in the 1930’s. Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie Rannock, is 34th in line to the throne. As nobility, she is expected to live up to royal standards, but hasn’t a penny to her name. Forced to live on her own, thanks to her selfish and greedy sister-in-law, Georgie, as her friends call her, finds enterprising ways of providing for herself. She has a dashing Irish suitor who disappears and reappears under very suspicious circumstances and friends who help her keep up appearances. Still, the Queen seems to favor her and gives her assignments but somehow they always seem to lead to murder. This is the ninth in this series that I find fun and amusing whenever I need a quick amusing book. Back to Top

Top Reads 2015

The Cutting by James Hayman – The set-up is familiar. Big city cop moves to a smaller New England town (Portland) to live a more peaceful, family friendly life with his teen age daughter. A body is found in a local scrap heap, a star athlete with his heart cut out. The adventure begins as Mike McCabe and his partner, Maggie Savage, rush to find this cruel murderer before there is another grisly crime. This is a real page turner with lots of action and suspense. It’s not for the faint of heart.

The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields – It’s 1892 Portland, Maine and the body of a young prostitute is found pinned to the earth with a pitchfork and laid out to form a pentagram. Deputy Marshall, Archie Mclean is assigned to the case. He is soon joined by noted criminalist, former Pinkerton Agent Percival Gray, who is also half Abenaki. I loved this book for its historical detail and the uniqueness of the story. The characters are engaging and realistic as is the setting.

A Study in Revenge by Kieran Shields – This the second in the Archie McLean/Percival Grey series. Something is definitely not what it seems when McLean finds the burned body of a man he knows was buried two days earlier. Once again he seeks out his friend Percival Gray for assistance. Mr Grey, busy with his own case, which also may not be what it seems, agrees to help. Could the two cases ultimately be related, and will they live to tell the tale? This is another great historical mystery that will take you on an exciting journey from the streets of Portland to towns to the south and all the way to Boston.

Sunset by Al Lamanda – Ex police Detective John Bekker lives in a little trailer on the beach. Following the death of his wife and the institutionalization of his traumatized daughter, he hides there in a bottle, until one day he is kidnapped by two men in a big black car. John comes to a week later, all dried out, in the home of Crime Boss, Eddie Christ, who supposedly had Mrs. Bekker killed to punish John. Mr. Crist, now dying of cancer, wants his name cleared. He insists he was not responsible for the crime and hires John at an exorbitant fee to find the real killer. Needing the money to care for his daughter, John agrees. I enjoyed the fast pace of this book, and the concise writing style of the author. The characters are well drawn and the relationship between John and his “next door” neighbor at the beach rings true. There is plenty of action too.

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz – Beginning at Reichenbach Falls not long after the deaths of Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, Scotland Yard Inspector Athelney Jones and Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase meet over another body found there. In his pocket is a clue to a meeting scheduled between Moriarty and a new American criminal who wants to take over London. The two men quickly join forces to bring an end to this new and even crueler menace to city. Full of action, adventure, twists and turns this novel will take you on quite a ride. Written in the Holmesian style this is the second mystery sanctioned by the Conan Doyle estate by Horowitz. It does not disappoint. Back to Top

Top Reads 2014

Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George – Inspector Lynley plays the back up role as Detective Sargent Barbara Havers gets caught up in the kidnapping of her young friend, Hadiyyah, and the complications of that act. This volume moves back and forth between England and Italy. The small Italian town is a great setting. I did find the use of Italian phrases annoying, but they did lend depth to the setting and the problems Barbara faced not knowing the language. I loved the Italian, Inspector Lo Bianco. He should get his own series.

The Yard by Alex Grecian – This book is dark. We are in London, post Jack the Ripper, and everyone is angry that Scotland Yard couldn’t catch him. Their reputation is on the line again, especially when policemen start getting killed. This is a gritty book, not for the faint of heart. It is a tense page turner with particularly grisly murders.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley – This delightful sixth book in the Flavia DeLuce series is, I think, the best one so far. Flavia is starting to grow up. I don’t know how Mr. Bradley understands the slow process of maturation in a young girl but it is marvelous to see the subtle ways Flavia is changing in her words and actions. With this book, this series takes a twist I never saw coming, but it promises even more adventures to come.

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves – This book takes place in a very small village in the Shetland Islands. It is very suspenseful, and somewhat dark, showing the negative side of insular living in a small, isolated village. Outsider Jimmy Perez, a detective that grew up in an even smaller island community, heads up the investigation of a dead teenager. Once before in Shetland, a young girl disappeared, never to be found. There was a prime suspect but neither a body nor the proof was ever discovered. Is there a connection? The locals certainly think so, but Detective Perez isn’t so sure. This one kept me guessing right up to the moment of the arrest. Back to Top

Top Reads 2013

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny – Once again, Louise Penny is at the top of my list. Each installation of her Inspector Gamache series is better than the last. In her sixth mystery, she actually weaves together two complete storylines, which could stand on their own, and for a coup de gras, adds a ribbon of plotline that wraps up her last novel, The Brutal Telling, like a gift. All of this excellently and brilliantly carried out, holding the readers interest, right up to the last page. This one is not to be missed. This is definitely a series that must be read in order, though. So if you haven’t had the pleasure of getting lost in Three Pines with Inspector Gamache, start with the first one, Still Life.

Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley – This 5th in the series is just as delightful as the other four. Flavia de Luce, precocious and daring 11 year old, lives in a small English village in the 1950’s. Her mother died in a plane crash when Flavia was very young and is greatly missed by all. She has two sisters who are the bane of her existence and a father who cannot keep up with her. Thus encouraged to find her own amusement, Flavia has a penchant for finding trouble, and dead bodies. Alan Bradley does an excellent job creating this small village and populating it with interesting, some might say, eccentric characters. Yet for all this the mysteries are engaging and challenging. If you haven’t read these I suggest you start with the first installment, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and watch the story unfold from the beginning.

Killing Floor by Lee Child – After hearing so many complaints from Jack Reacher fans over the movie casting, I had to try this series. I was not disappointed. This thriller/mystery/action story was thoroughly enjoyable. It is the kind of book I just can’t put down. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time! Jack Reacher, retired military policeman, loner, and stranger in town was arrested for murder. Everyone wants him to be guilty. It’s up to Jack to get himself out of this nightmare. Jack Reacher is a man’s man, tough, strong, capable, and trained in hand to hand combat. He’s also a gentlemen and has a way with the ladies. Accompanying him on his journey is some ride!

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen – Cute! Perky! Charming! are the words I would use to describe this mystery series by Rhys Bowen. Meet Lady Georgiana, 34th in line for the British throne. Georgie, as her friends call her, is not interested in an arranged marriage to a foreign prince so she leaves the family castle in Scotland to make her own way in the world. Alone in the family home in London it’s not too long before she finds trouble, in the form of a body in her bath. Light and easy to read, these books are the perfect companion for a day at the beach or an evening on the couch.

Dead Level by Sarah Graves – I enjoy this series that is set in Eastport, Maine. Jacobia Tiptree, New York transplant to the island, has an uncanny knack for finding bodies and getting in the way of killers. In this episode, the killer gets up close and personal, making Jake his main target. After all, she did get him put away. There are plenty of thrills as Jake and her BFF Ellie do their best to outwit their stalker. There is plenty of action and excitement in this one. It’s a real blast! Back to Top

Top Reads 2012

House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz – Brilliant! is the one word description I would give to Anthony Horowitz’s House of Silk. The characters came to life through Mr. Horowitz’s pen; and his descriptions of the lavish and indulgent life of the privileged juxtaposed against the desperation of the poor and the orphaned provided the perfect setting; all wrapped up in the dirt and fog of a raw English winter. I was there with Sherlock Holmes and Watson in Victorian London. But it wasn’t only the weather that chilled me to the bone. The subject was so shocking to Watson that he ordered the manuscript not to be published for 100 years. With two very different murders to investigate the plot is deliciously complex. While some answers seemed obvious, others took me by surprise. This mystery was fulfilling on every level. The writing was beautiful, the descriptions vivid, and the puzzle engaging right to the end. Written as a reflection by Dr. Watson, some years after the death of Sherlock Holmes, the characters were completely true to the originals. It’s no wonder that this was the first Sherlock Holmes novel written by another author to receive the authorization of the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate.

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny – Once again Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache makes my top 5 list. Armand is a rare breed indeed – relentless in his search for truth; yet honest, noble, intelligent and kind. The complex storyline, lovable characters, and delightful setting for these mysteries make them irresistible!

A Cold Treachery by Charles Todd
Ian Rutledge, inspector in Scotland Yard has returned from WWI, wanting to pick up right from where he left off before the war. But he knows he is not the man he used to be. Can he keep his ‘shell shock’ a secret and get the job done? This case kept me guessing right up to the end. The mother-son writing team offers a great study in human nature along with an engrossing mystery.

Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George – The latest in the Inspector Thomas Lynley series will not disappoint his followers. Thomas must go undercover so to speak and use his aristocratic connections and friendships to discreetly puzzle out what really happened in the boathouse late that night. Surely, it was just an unfortunate accident.

Bloodline by Felix Francis – I am happy to say that Felix Francis has filled the shoes of his late father, jockey cum mystery writer, Dick Francis. Without missing a beat, this story provides the excitement and intrigue of the British Horse Racing world that the elder Francis provided. It’s like a quick and enjoyable romp among old friends. There is no faulting of bloodlines here. Back to Top

Top Reads 2011

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn – first book in a series which could be all five of my favorites! Lady Julia Grey and her husband Edward are having a dinner party when her husband suddenly becomes very ill and dies. His whole family is of poor constitution so this is hardly unexpected. Enter the dark, brooding, enquiry agent recently contracted by her husband, who declares that Edward has been murdered. He and Lady Grey do not exactly hit it off and the sparks fly. This Victorian mystery is satisfyingly complex with many a twist and a surprise ending. Some swashbuckling adventure and romance add to the mix to create a fun and satisfying result.

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill – Meet Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler and his whole family in a character driven mystery series written by British author Susan Hill. The first book is called The Various Haunts of Men. Ms. Hill is a writer in the same league with P.D. James or Elizabeth George and her exploration of human nature and complex issues is superb. This book is more than just a mystery, though the mystery itself is compelling. A middle age woman is missing but the police do not seem overly concerned. After all she has no ties that bind and could be off on a jaunt. Only Freya Graffam, the new transfer in from London, seems to be convinced there is a crime to pursue; until someone else turns up missing. Then the game is on. The suspense will keep you reading into the night and the ending will keep you up even later. I highly recommend this book, but it comes with a warning. It’s definitely not a cozy.

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny – Each volume of the Inspector Armand Gamache series gets better. In this one Armand and his wife, Reine Marie, have gone to their favorite out-of–the-way place to celebrate their anniversary. A rather strange family is also staying there. The weather is stormy and so are the relationships. When one of the family ends up dead, Armand’s team must uncover the secrets hidden in this idyllic place. If you haven’t read any of her books, start with her first book – Still Life

A Small Death in the Great Glen by A.D. Scott – Set in the Highlands of Scotland in the 1950’s this mystery features Joanna Ross, a housewife who wants to be more. Against local custom she takes a job outside her home working for the Highland Gazette. Her husband Bob is a rough and tumble kind of guy who isn’t too thrilled with this arrangement and they have two young daughters. When another young child goes missing and then is found dead, the rumors and supernatural stories begin. The police are getting nowhere and Joanna, afraid for her own girls, is determined to uncover the truth. But will she be in time to save the next victim? This atmospheric tale takes us back to the good old days, which may not have been as good as we remember them.

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths – Ruth Galloway is an archeologist, who teaches at a local university. She lives alone on the edge of a Saltmarsh near Norfolk, in England. When the bones of a child are found near there the police call on Ruth to find out how old they are. Her bones are over 2000 years old and Det. Nelson is disappointed because he thought they might be the bones of a long cold case he has never forgotten. The killer never forgot him either and has been taunting him ever since. When another girl goes missing he calls Ruth in to help because of her knowledge of the area. She gets a little too close for comfort in more ways than one, and her life might be the next one on the line. The setting and the history and folklore of the area add suspense and depth to this story. Back to Top

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