The Bossy Bookworm
Six Four-Star Mysteries I Loved Last Year
Six Four-Star Bossy Mystery Reads
Doesn't the cold winter feel like the perfect time to cozy up with a mystery that hooks you with its twists and turns?
Here are six of my favorite mystery and suspense reads of last year--with another list to come! A couple of these are historical fiction mysteries, one was jointly written by two authors, one was set in London, two have contemporary settings--and I rated each of these books four Bossy stars or more.
If you've read any of these, I'd love to hear what you think!
And I'd also love to hear: what are some of your favorite mystery reads?
01 A Marvellous Light (Last Binding #1) by Freya Marske
The first book in Marske's duology is full of Edwardian England detail, gay love, mystery, magic, wonderful dialogue and banter, and plenty of heart. I adored it.
A Marvellous Light starts with a devastating ending (the demise of a character, caused by nefarious magicians) and a less-than-promising beginning.
Robin is trying to keep the household afloat after the deaths of his parents, to support his bright, ambitious younger sister, and to date some handsome men along the way.
Marske offers immersive Edwardian England detail in this adorable, captivating, queer book that involves elaborate magical schemes and evil plots.
Robin and Edwin's love is romantic and sweet and heartbreaking and sexy; the mystery at the heart of the book seems only to be solvable by the biggest book nerd in existence; and the story's magical details are fascinating and odd.
I was completely hooked by A Marvellous Light, and I tried to slow down my reading to make it last. The amount of heart in this book was exquisite. Stay tuned for my rave review of the sequel!
For my full review, check out A Marvellous Light.
02 Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner
Faulkner's debut mystery is twisty and turny, with various potential bad seeds and complications--and it ends in a satisfying whirl of revelation and resolution.
Helen lives in her dream home, an old Victorian beauty where she grew up, with her architect husband, who has masterminded plans to change the house and make it even more grand.
Her brother and sister-in-law live nearby, and when Helen becomes pregnant with a long-desired baby and her brother's wife announces she's pregnant as well, Helen feels sure that her life couldn't be any more full and happy.
But when she meets Rachel, a single mother-to-be in her prenatal class, Helen begins to feel unsettled. The unpredictable Rachel is spontaneous and fun, but she seems to know things about Helen's life and family that she shouldn't. When she alludes to mysterious connections between the women--and a long-ago crime--her persistent presence threatens to unravel the rest of the group's perfect lives forever.
An unreliable narrator setup can be hit or miss for me, but in this case, I felt Faulkner deftly crafted Helen as naive, overwhelmed, lonely, and, at times, medicated. Therefore the omissions and confusion on her part--which allow the tricky situations at the heart of the book to be revealed slowly--aren't too convenient, and they add layers to the mystery of who exactly the nefarious force in the story may be.
Click here for my full review of Greenwich Park.
03 The Box in the Woods (Truly Devious #4) by Maureen Johnson
The fourth mystery in Johnson's Truly Devious series delivers more smart, creative sleuthing from Stevie Bell and the gang, great dialogue, twisty events, unsolved elements from the past and present, and a denouement I didn't predict.
“...hear me out. This whole thing is ticking a lot of the horror movie boxes. Murder at a sleepaway camp. A serial killer. A final girl. A kid who died because some teenagers were being irresponsible.”
The Box in the Woods is another smart, funny, intriguing young adult mystery from Maureen Johnson.
This stand-alone novel from the author of the Truly Devious trilogy (Truly Devious, The Vanishing Stair, and The Hand on the Wall) follows the irresistibly single-minded, gifted, wonderfully oddball Stevie Bell as she takes her sleuthing skills outside of Ellingham Academy for the first time.
Johnson sets up a premise in which a number of Stevie's friends from Ellingham are reunited to work at the camp and be together. This allows for the cooperative problem-solving that I adore in the rest of the series.
Her friends' talents and support buoy Stevie's unique ability to piece together details and see the truth. (And Nate might even be writing again, if his irritating young superfan camper Lucas has anything to do with it.) The secondary characters of Lucas(!), Allison, Nate, Janelle, and David--and their dialogue--are fantastic as always.
Click here for my full review of The Box in the Woods.
04 Alias Emma by Ava Glass
Alias Emma is a fast-paced cat-and-mouse chase across hidden London, led by Emma Makepeace, a resourceful, tough, new spy determined to thwart the Russians' deadly plans.
Emma Makepeace, a brand-new British spy, is jumping into duty--and danger--with both feet.
Barely out of basic training, she has just twelve hours to deliver her asset across London to safety--without being spotted by the Russians who have hacked the city's thousands of cameras, and their assassins, who are out to eliminate the person she has sworn to protect. And Emma would very much like to make it out of this alive as well.
This fast-paced thriller tracks Emma and Michael, the distractingly handsome son of Russian dissidents who she has pledged to protect, on the longest night of their lives as they work to evade the thousands of cameras documenting London citizens' every move.
I read this start to finish during a flight (and delay), and I loved Glass's cat-and-mouse chase through side streets and underground rivers in a peek at hidden London that's detailed and gritty and gripping. I was so happy to realize this is the first in a planned series. Sign me up for every bit of this!
For my full review, check out Alias Emma.
05 What Happened to the Bennetts by Lisa Scottoline
Scottoline's suspenseful mystery offers surprising depth in exploring grief while the main protagonist takes justice into his own hands to bring peace to his family.
Jason Bennett is a suburban dad whose life takes a horrific turn when his car is hijacked–and his family with it.
The FBI tells Jason he’s stumbled into the crosshairs of a drug-trafficking organization. Agents advise the family to enter witness protection immediately in order to save their lives. But Jason can't shake the fact that they've done nothing wrong, and the witness protection program is for criminals who have turned on those around them--not for law-abiding citizens who stumble into a sinister situation.
I'm up for a renegade story and a good-over-evil, noble quest. But What Happened to the Bennetts is more than a suspense story. Scottoline offers surprising depth, particularly while exploring the bone-shaking grief that lies at the root of this story. Her treatment of this delicate issue within a solid, suspenseful mystery cemented my interest in reading more of her books.
The mystery within What Happened to the Bennetts is twisty without being manipulative, and the denouement felt satisfyingly layered and complex.
For my full review, please check out What Happened to the Bennetts.
06 State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny
This suspenseful collaboration between Clinton and Penny kept me on the edge of my seat through heart-stopping political conflicts, betrayals, suspicions, and discoveries.
A new United States administration has been sworn in after a period of upheaval and upset. The shift has made for strange bedfellows—and a prickly partnership between our main protagonist, Ellen Adams, former multinational media conglomerate head and new secretary of state, and the president, a politician Adams has long criticized.
Then a hastily sent, coded message comes through to an underling in the Oval Office--and it seems linked to violent terrorist attacks that soon begin taking place around the world. Who sent the message and why, and who is responsible for the attacks?
I loved how Clinton and Penny made me question the loyalty and intentions of almost everyone in State of Terror while still making me feel invested in the story, Adams's family, and the ins and outs of the various complicated political conflicts, double-crossing players, grave American dangers, and immense potential worldwide effects.
For my full review of State of Terror, please click here.