by Lorie Lewis Ham, Cynthia Chow,
Sandra Murphy
& Terrance McArthur

Another year has ended and once again we take a look back at just a few of the many books that were reviewed in KRL and KRL News and Reviews in 2021. While 2021 was another difficult year, a lot of wonderful books came out! All but one of our main reviewers share in this post their top 5-10ish favorite books they reviewed in 2021. Katherine Costa wanted to include favorite authors and TV shows that she has reviewed, so hers is going up in a separate post next week!

Terrance McArthur

In 2021, I didn’t review a “Dirty Dozen” books, I reviewed a pretty neat “Baker’s Dozen” books. Here’s my top 5 (in anti-chronological order).

Dark Ride Deception by Mark Bacon
A noirish look at industrial espionage and murder in the world of amusement parks. Lyle, an ex-cop, drives a cab at a 70s theme park and does some detective work for the boss. Kate, an ex-basketball player, is in charge of public relations. A severed finger in his cab and feuding actors filming a movie in the park set off a chain of mysterious events in this fast-moving quest for the truth.

Scarlet at Crystal River by Randy Overbeck
Darrell and Erin are on their Christmas honeymoon at an estate in Florida. It’s all so romantic, except Darrell keeps seeing the ghosts of two Latino children. He is driven to investigate, and the honeymoon trip becomes a journey into danger.

It Takes Two to Mango by Carrie Doyle
Plum Lockhart, a self-centered NYC travel editor, is downsized and finds work as a rental broker on the Caribbean Island of Paraiso, with a cutthroat rival, a hunky security chief, and murder. What a trip!

Tears of Honor by James A. Ardaiz
Based on the World War II experiences in the Japanese-American internment camps and the military battalions where Nisei soldiers proved their loyalty at the risk of their lives. Former judge Ardaiz spins a riveting, gritty tale.

People of the City by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Acrobat-vigilante-mage Veranix, detectives Satrina and Minox, former criminals Asti and Verci (seeking why their business and neighbors were burned out of their homes), and knights-in-training Dayne and Jerinne chase evil around and under their old city in a grand finale that is mighty grand—but not so final.

Cynthia Chow

Murder in a Cookbook Nook by Ellery Adams
As a diehard fan of Top Chef and the Great British Bakeoff, a cooking competition being held at Storyton Hall is irresistible. When combined with the fascinating mythology of Jane Storyton as a Guardian finally released protected tomes to the world, it cements its place on my list of favorites.

Mimi Lee Cracks the Code by Jennifer J. Chow
Saving a client’s Shih Tzu leads to Mimi Lee being given a free vacation with her boyfriend on Catalina Island, but of course that also leads to another murder investigation. The telepathic bond she has with her cat Marshmallow is only occasionally helpful, but he is always more concerned with his feline needs anyway. Mimi’s Malaysian family are always a joy, as are the descriptions of the cuisine that blends Asian cultures. (this review isn’t going up until the end of this month, but it was submitted in 2021)

Judgment at Santa Monica by E.J Copperman
Even though Jersey attorney Sandy Moss previously proven that he was innocent, actor Patrick McNabb is back in her life. This time Patrick wants Sandy to help a fellow actor.

Sacrificial Daughter by Janet Dawson
This one hit me personally, and I have been unable to forget how I felt while reading it. Geriatric care manager Kay Dexter is caught between her clients, their families, and bureaucracy as she attempts to do what she can for those who need it the most. Sifting through the lies she’s told is only one of the challenges by one of my favorite mystery authors ever.

Daughter of the Morning Star by Craig Johnson
This novel couldn’t have been timelier, as it explores the long and hidden history of crimes against Native Women. A fellow Sheriff draws Walt Longmire into the disappearance of yet another woman, and this seventeenth in the series veers into far more mythological and mystical territory. The scenes of Walt and Henry Standing Bear coaching a women’s high school basketball team ensure that this is one of my favorites.

Dead Letters by Sheila Lowe
The series featuring forensic handwriting expert Claudia Rose has been a favorite of mine for decades, and here she must intervene to help a niece who disappeared on an archaeological expedition. The mix of handwriting analysis and stolen artifacts is an unexpected but perfect combination.

The Alchemist of Fire and Fortune by Gigi Pandian
For originality alone, this latest installment featuring an alchemist and her gargoyle makes it a delight for the year. Chapters narrated by Dorian the Gargoyle as he leads his own Scooby gang into misadventures are an added bonus.

18 1/2 Disguises by Larissa Reinhart
Former teen actress Maisie Albright is trying to put her infamous past behind her as she works for a private detective, but that becomes impossible when her mother and former manager swoops in the buy the entire security agency. A masquerade ball held by a celebrity costume designer brings in Maisie’s friends, but it also attracts a murder. Maybe it’s my love of teen stars and fallen celebrities, but the mystery is a joy on its own.

Mango, Mambo, and Murder by Raquel V. Reyes
I loved this first in the Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series which introduces budding television cooking host Miriam Quiñones-Smith and her multicultural family. The bilingual dialogue is outstanding, as are the interactions with Miriam and the residents of Coral Shores, Florida’s high society. Conflicts with in-laws, intrigue at the television station, and so many tantalizing descriptions of Miriam’s culture and cuisine make this an outstanding mystery.

Sandra Murphy

A Time to Swill by Sherry Harris
Chloe transplants from her cold weather home to the warm south, works in a bar, and has a beachfront home. Except for the occasional dead body, what’s not to like? Second in a new series.

Animal Instinct by David Rosenfelt
Corey Douglas and K9 Simon Garfunkel (not the singer) may have retired from the police force but that doesn’t mean they’re sitting around, eating cheese puffs, and bingeing Netflix. They’re on the case and determined to solve the one that got away. The second book in a spinoff series from the Andy Carpenter mysteries. (see Best in Snow, below)

Beauty Expos Are Murder by Libby Klein
Poppy McAllister takes her paleo muffins and keto cookies on the road when she hosts a booth at the beauty expo. Who knew beauty could be so deadly? Book six in the series, a laugh on every page, and a darn good mystery besides.

Best in Snow by David Rosenfelt
How many bodies would never be discovered if not for people walking their dogs? Attorney Andy Carpenter’s dog Tara finds a body in a snowdrift, sending the reluctant lawyer back into the courtroom with what looks to be a sure loser of a case. Book twenty-four of his original series. (see Animal Instinct, above)

Cajun Kiss of Death by Ellen Byron
Celebrity chefs can bring a lot of attention to a small town, especially when they die in a fiery boating accident—or was it an accident? Book seven in the original and delightful Cajun Country series. (see It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder, below).

Faux Finished by Dawn Dixon
You’d think the only danger when getting the country club all gussied up for a wedding would be falling off a ladder. Not even close. First, there’s a body Bridget finds in the men’s locker room. Of course, things got worse when she realized it was her ex-husband. First in a new series (we hope), funny, and dripping Southern onto the page. Plus there’s March Madness basketball.

It’s a Wonderful Woof by Spencer Quinn
Readers are used to Chet and Bernie in the Valley, worrying about the aquifer, and chasing perps—but in the deep snow? Chet’s up to the task in this, book twelve of the series as they track a mysterious piece of art.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder by Maria DiRico
Competition can be rough for the Best Holiday Decorations contest, but when a body is found in Santa’s workshop (lawn display, of course), you gotta wonder—how cutthroat are these competitors? Second in a new series for Ellen Byron, writing under a pen name. (see Cajun Kiss of Death, above)

Murder on the Beach Anthology
An anthology of eight stories, all set on the beach. While the cold winds blow, read heart-warming, if not murderous, tales. A perfect beach read, even if you’re miles away. First of two (so far) destination mystery anthologies.

Striking Range by Margaret Mizushima
For those who follow Maddie’s adventures in the Timber Creek K9 series, this book focuses on the mystery of her father’s death. With a storm brewing, a missing newborn, and Robo’s new puppies, this is a page-turner for sure.

Lorie Lewis Ham

I never manage to read and review as many books as the rest of the gang, but I do manage to read quite a variety of mysteries, including ones that are a mix of mystery and fantasy. Since I read less than the rest I am going to share with you all of the books I reviewed in 2021, in no particular order, because they were all favorites.

I am going to start with a couple of series I really enjoy and for which there were a couple of books released last year. Bone Canyon and Gated Prey are both part of a series written by Lee Goldberg which features Detective Eve Ronin. While I enjoy pretty much anything that Lee writes, this is my favorite series of his!

The other series for which I reviewed two books last year is the Lizzie Grace series by Keri Arthur. This one is a perfect combination of mystery and fantasy, which is one of my favorite types of books to read. The series has werewolves, magic, romance, and mystery all wrapped up in one. In 2021, I reviewed Magic Misled and Broken Bonds.

Another book that falls into the mystery plus fantasy category is Baying for Blood by Jeri Westerson. I will read pretty much anything that Jeri writes, (she finished the Crispin Guest series last year and I can’t wait to read the final book, The Deadliest Sin, recently reviewed here by Kathleen Costa) she is a masterful storyteller and creates fascinating characters. Baying for Blood features a werewolf named Jeff Chase.

I also reviewed several LGBTQ+ mysteries last year. Requeered Tales is re-releasing a lot of great books from years past and one of those released last year was The Always Anonymous Beast by Lauren Wright Douglas. I really enjoyed this PI series and have the second book waiting on my Kindle to review in 2022.

I also reviewed the latest Jinx Ballou book by Dharma Kelleher, TERF Wars. Her books always make me think and this one did that more than ever, providing insight into the topic of TERFs–something that too many people aren’t aware of–and as always providing a window into what the transgender community too often has to go through. They are wonderfully written and filled with complex and interesting characters. Jinx is a bounty hunter, which isn’t typically my type of book, but I love this series and can’t wait for the next one.

Lastly in the area of LGBTQ+ mysteries, I reviewed two fun books with delightful characters, The Player’s Encore by Joe Cosentino, and The Graveyard of God’s Name By Neil S. Plakcy.

In 2021, I discovered three new authors to me whose books I really enjoyed and have other books of theirs waiting to be reviewed in 2022–The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle By Timothy Miller (A Sherlock Holmes mystery), The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict (a fictional retelling of Agatha Christie’s disappearance), and Fresh Brewed Murder by Emmeline Duncan (a new series involving coffee).

Speaking of coffee, my reading list wouldn’t be complete without a book from Cleo Coyle! Last year sadly didn’t bring us another Coffeehouse Mystery (but I am reading one right now that I will be reviewing soon), but we did get another book in her Haunted Bookshop Mystery series, The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait. This series is a delightful mix of cozy and noir.

Here are the rest of the books I reviewed in 2021–The Necklace By Matt Witten (much darker than I usually read but beautifully written), Murder My Past by Delia C. Pitts (a series that features Harlem private detective SJ Rook-another darker series with very interesting characters and stories filled with twists and turns), and a must have non-fiction book for Agatha Christie fans, Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World by Mark Aldridge.

2021 was a great year of books and I hope you will check out many of the ones we have shared here, and the ones we will be reviewing in the new year! And remember just because a book we reviewed didn’t make our favorites list, doesn’t mean it wasn’t an awesome book–we review more wonderful books every year then we can even count! What were some of your favorite books in 2021?

Editor’s note: If you would like to read about some of the books I have read that I didn’t review, that is something I share with those who support us on Patreon! As we get more patrons we hope to be able to share even more bonus content. Even $1 a month can be a great help in our efforts to continue to bring you even more mystery fun and so much more, I hope you will consider supporting us in 2022!

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play. A new episode went up this week!

You can use this link to purchase many of these books from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:


  1. Thank you for including Mimi Lee Cracks the Code on this great list!

    • Thank you for including Murder My Past! I’m honored to have my book on this terrific list!

  2. Thank you so much for adding 18 1/2 Disguises to your list. I am so thrilled! What a great honor to have a Maizie Albright among these other great books! Thank you!

  3. Thanks so much for adding our collective Murder on the Beach anthology to the list! We all love hearing that readers enjoy it 🙂


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