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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Six Four-Star Mysteries I Loved Reading in the Past Year


Six Four-Star (and Up) Bossy Mystery Reads

This is the time in the year when you may be asking yourself, "Is she going to just keep rehashing all the big hits of her past year of reading?"

Well, yes, she is! I love a Favorites list, and I've made a Bossy spreadsheet (ahem!) of my favorite reads of the past year by genre, so the hits are going to keep coming! So I suggest buckling up, buttercups!

If you want more favorite-mystery lists, stay tuned for round 2 of last year's Bossy favorites, coming soon. And if you're greedy about reading lists like I am, you can also check out the lists I posted last year around this time, Six Four-Star Mystery Reads I Loved Last Year and Six More Four-Star Mysteries I Loved Last Year.

You can also check out My Very Favorite Bossy 2023 Reads for my overall favorite reads from last year.

You can click here for other mysteries I've reviewed on Bossy Bookworm. And here's a link to my Greedy Reading Lists featuring mystery titles.

What are some of your favorite mystery reads? If you've read any of the books listed here, I'd love to hear what you think!


 

01 What Remains by Wendy Walker

Wendy Walker's thriller focuses on a detective, her stalker, and the lengths both will go to to try to get what they want. This is a character-driven mystery with a twist.

When Detective Elise Sutton stumbles into a crime--a gunman is wandering a big-box store, shooting--she draws her gun for the first time in her career and takes down the shooter, saving at least one bystander's life.

But when guilt and self-doubt lead her to track down the almost-victim, Wade Austin, he assures her that her actions saved him. But then he insinuates himself into Elise's life in odd and alarming ways.

It becomes clear that he has been learning from the online notes of a class Elise once taught on getting away with murder so that he may attract attention yet evade detection--and, most importantly, make sure Elise knows he's in control of her destiny.

In order to keep her husband, young daughters, and partner safe, Elise may have to keep some crucial secrets and take unimaginable risks in an attempt to outsmart her stalker.

The story is told with alternating chapters focused on a chilling crime that feels connected to the Elise-Wade situation, and this second storyline doesn't bode well for Elise's future.

This is a character-driven mystery with an interesting twist.

For my full review, check out What Remains.


 

02 As Good As Dead (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder #3) by Holly Jackson

Jackson doesn't skimp on heart-pounding pacing, captivating character development, and dark turns in this third book in her young adult mystery series. I never would have predicted the twists. Sign me up for all Pippa Fitz-Amobi books, forever, please.

As Good As Dead is the final book in A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, a series I've loved, and I've been delaying reading this third and final installment due to my willful denial that the series is ending, my intense love for the characters of Pip and Ravi, and Holly Jackson's smart, sassy, irresistible storytelling.

Ever since Pip's book two detective work ended in an important resolution, she's been coping with the significant trauma of that case's dramatic final events.

She's in danger of being sued for libel by Max Freaking Hastings, who Pip knows is a terrible person who has done terrible things--which is why she said so, passionately, on her podcast.

And she can't shake a general sense of unease, as though she's missing something.

The direction the book takes is fascinating. Jackson does not let off the gas pacing-wise. The unexpected twists and turns kept me riveted while Pip's unfailing bravery and her hero's struggles and emotional turmoil threatened to break my heart.

For my full review (and links to my reviews of the other books in this series), check out As Good As Dead.


 

03 Exiles (Aaron Falk #3) by Jane Harper

The third in Jane Harper's Aaron Falk series offers procedural detail, a lush Australian setting, and character development I found heartwarming and immensely satisfying.

I love Aaron Falk stories and I loved the twisty interconnectedness of the characters in Exiles. Harper allows for Falk to develop more fully as a character--as a friend, a romantic interest, a father figure, and a detective. Yet she allows for new opportunities for him that felt real and possible, which I again loved.

I wasn't ever sure who was responsible for the multiple tragedies at the heart of the story, and the resolutions make sense. Meanwhile Harper explores loyalty, procedural details related to the past and near past, beginnings and endings, and looooove.

Jane Harper's The Dry (Aaron Falk #1) is set in small-town Australia with dark secrets and twists and turns, and she offers more of her excellent pacing in Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2). 

I'm in for all Jane Harper and all Aaron Falk stories! Exiles was the right mystery at the right time for me.

For my full review, check out Exiles.


 

04 A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell #2) by Deanna Raybourn

This second book in Raybourn's historical fiction mystery series, set in Victorian London, hooked me even more fully into Veronica and Stoker's pasts, partnership, and their growing fondness for and vulnerability with each other. I loved it.

Victorian lepidopterist (she studies butterflies and moths) and adventurer Veronica Speedwell teams up with her natural-history and mystery-solving partner Stoker to try to prove that local art patron and society figure Miles Ramsforth is innocent of murdering his mistress and should not be executed in just a few days.

I loved A Perilous Undertaking even more than A Curious Beginning--the wonderful character development for Veronica and Stoker; the allusions to each of their complicated pasts; their hilarious banter; and their strong-willed, stubborn, clever partnership.

The mystery was interesting, with salacious elements, and everyone was a potential suspect. I was satisfied by the layered revelations of the truth.

The danger and dogged exploration of various avenues to information felt as though they primarily served to create powerful moments of reluctant, heartbreaking vulnerability between Veronica and Stoker.

I'm obsessed with this will-they/won't-they friendship and also the deep dedication to one another that transcends any attraction, irritation, or challenge.

For my full review, please see A Perilous Undertaking. (And check out my rave reviews of book 1, A Curious Beginning; book 3, A Treacherous Curse; book 4, A Dangerous Collaboration; and book 5, A Murderous Relation. Raybourn has written nine books in the series so far, and I intend to happily read them all.)

Deanna Raybourn is also the author of the wonderful stand-alone mystery Killers of a Certain Age.


 

05 The Running Grave (Cormoran Strike #7) by Robert Galbraith

In what's possibly my favorite book yet of the seven in the Cormoran Strike series, we see some emotional growth, potentially game-changing revelations and resolutions, and a fascinating plot that revolves around taking down a cult from the inside.

"It’s dangerous to make a cult of your own unhappiness. Hard to get out, once you’ve been in there too long. You forget how."

In the newest doorstop of a series installment (960 pages; the audiobook is 34 hours and 14 minutes), Cormoran Strike is cursorily on a health kick, he and Robin remain drawn to each other but continue to keep up emotional barriers to a deeper connection, and the agency is focused on trying to take down the fictional religious cult Universal Humanitarian Church (UHC)--from the inside.

It's satisfying that Robin gets the majority of page time as she bravely infiltrates the UHC and works to uncover the truth of rumored brainwashing, cruel punishments, sexual abuse, and suspicious deaths.

Strike hasn't magically matured emotionally, but he does become somewhat more thoughtful and deliberate in his life choices as the book progresses, ultimately (briefly) showing a potentially game-changing vulnerability that I loved.

I found the witness and suspect interviews and Strike and Robin's methods of extracting information particularly interesting. The side plot of a rival detective agency and the links between the UHC and Strike's personal past were intriguing.

For my full review, check out The Running Grave. You can click here to check out my reviews of Cormoran Strike books 1 through 4, book 5, and book 6.


 

06 American Girl by Wendy Walker

This is another whodunit winner from Wendy Walker: a character-driven mystery with a neurodivergent main protagonist, small-town intrigue, and satisfying revenge.

Charlie is a math-whiz teen with autism who is working as much as possible at The Triple S sandwich shop so that she can one day afford to leave her Pennsylvania hometown and attend MIT.

But when the shop owner, Clay Cooper, who owns several other local businesses, is a town council member, and has his hand in most of the local business, turns up dead, everyone becomes a suspect, including all of his employees.

Charlie must help discover the truth about what happened in order to clear her coworkers--and Charlie herself--from suspicion of murder.

Wendy Walker writes wonderful, character-driven suspense that keeps me hooked as she guides the reader through a twisty mystery. The fierce loyalty and revenge elements in this intriguing whodunit were immensely satisfying.

Wendy Walker is also the author of What Remains and Don't Look for Me as well as All Is Not Forgotten, Emma in the Night, and The Night Before.

Please click here for my full review of American Girl.

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