King River Life Staff Favorite Books of 2022

Jan 28, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Fantasy & Fangs, Lorie Lewis Ham, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy, Terrance V. Mc Arthur

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

It’s that time of year again, a time to look back at the books we reviewed here at KRL over the past year and share with you some of our favorites! We reviewed a LOT of books here on KRL and KRL News and Reviews. All but one of our main reviewers shares in this post their top 5-10ish favorite books they reviewed in 2022. Katherine Costa wanted to include favorite authors and TV shows that she has reviewed, so hers went up in a separate post over on KRL News and Reviews this week-you can find it here!

Terrance McArthur:

2022 was quite a year. I read more outside books than the ones I reviewed: old, new, non-fiction, and whatever. Here are four reviewed books that stuck with me.

The Lemon Man by Keith Bruton, Brash Books
In The Lemon Man, Patrick Callen is a hitman with a baby—it isn’t his. He acquired the child after killing the father as part of his job. Suddenly, this bicycle-riding, OCD, list-maker is buying baby food, changing diapers, and trading duties with his call-girl girlfriend as he bikes around Dublin, Ireland. It’s quirky, weird, violent, graphic, and full of characters that don’t fit the crime novel norms. You’ll want to read it again to figure out how things fit together into such a fascinating whole.

Something’s Guava Give by Carrie Doyle, Poisoned Pen Press
In Carrie Doyle’s second Trouble in Paradise mystery, Something’s Guava Give, Plum Lockhart has moved from travel magazine editor in NYC to villa broker on an island Caribbean paradise aptly called Paraiso. When a publishing heiress, in trouble with resort security, turns up dead, Plum is talked into investigating with the yummy security chief, Juan Kevin Munoz. This takes her to a garish estate where bathers swim with sharks, has-been and almost-were celebrities hobnob, and the owner watches from his throne room. Plum’s NYC attitudes are fading away amid the Paraisan style that takes things slowly…but murder has its own speed.

Murder Take Two by Delia C. Pitts, Bookbaby
SJ Rook is a tough guy, ex-military, a private investigator pulling security duty for a TV show filming in Harlem, in Murder Take Two by Delia C. Pitts. A sexy starlet. An executive on the set fearing for her life. A young punk with a gambling problem—he loses more than he wins. A mid-level mob goon with a taste for hurting people. What could go wrong? A lot.

It’s a gritty, raw, first-person, urban-noir mystery, heavy on the language and violence, but light on the sex, with added point-of-view sections from inside the killer’s head. Murder Take Two has violence and death, but there is an intelligence in it that brings a reality and life to its mean streets.

Straight Up by Cathi Stoler, Level Best Books
Straight Up, Cathi Stoler’s third Murder on the Rocks Mystery, is not exactly cozy, not exactly noir, not exactly a thriller, but it has bits of each. Jude owns a bar, worries about an upcoming Restaurant Week, is losing her business partner, her building owner is enamored of a mysterious woman who doesn’t seem right, and the serial killer who lived in the building is still on the loose. A lot of elements are unsettling, which keeps you turning pages faster and faster and …

Cynthia Chow:

The Deepest of Secrets of Secrets: A Rockton Novel by Kelley Armstrong
Minotaur; February 2022
The unique premise by one of my favorite authors has drawn in readers through seven novels, and this series as a fitting end point even though there is so much potential for more in the future. An off-the-grid community funded by a mysterious wealthy cabal and populated by those needing to hide is a brilliant and fun concept. Rockton, having its own governing and law enforcement system, allows Detective Casey Duncan to implement a satisfying, if often stress-filled, form of justice.

Buried in a Good Book: A By the Book Mystery by Tamara Berry
Poisoned Pen Press; May 24, 2022
To combat writer’s block and recover from a divorce, thriller author Tess Harrow moves herself and her teen daughter to rural Washington. There she meets a sheriff who is very irritated by his coincidental resemblance to her fictional hero, but it’s inevitable that he will slowly fall for her charms. Or at least be beaten down by her unending persistence to be involved in his investigation when literal body parts rain down on them. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Tess’s daughter Gertie, who behaves both like a real teen and the most mature one in their family. This is one of the most humorous novels of the year.

Death by Bubble Tea: An L.A. Night Market Mystery by Jennifer J. Chow
Berkley; July 2022
I adore this new series’ main character. Yale Yee is a twenty-something Luddite who relies on library research and has a love for Jane Austen. Cantonese traditions in L.A.’s Night Market showcase a mouth-watering cuisine, while Yale’s wealthy Hong Kong cousin will appeal to those who fell in love with Crazy Rich Asians.

The Proof is in the Poison: A Southern Homebrew Mystery by Diane Kelly
Berkley; June 2022
Moonshine, a model train convention, romance, and great supporting characters make this second in the series as delightful as the first. Resembling the author’s Tara Holloway novels more than her animal-centric ones, this emerged as a surprise hit sure to charm all of her fans.

Homicide and Halo-Halo: A Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery by Mia P. Manansala
Berkley; February 2022
This is a wonderful exploration of multi-ethnic cuisine and cultures. It’s also so refreshing to see that the heroine, Lila Macapagal, is having to deal with the trauma of a previous murder investigation. That realistic angle and her exuberant circle of friends and family make this an outstanding entry in the foodie mystery genre.

A Death in Door County: A Monster Hunter Mystery by Annelise Ryan
Berkley; September 2022
I love this new series featuring a character in a profession I’ve never heard of before: a cryptozoologist Monster Hunter. The dry humor and fascinating plot kept me entertained throughout this unique, very fun mystery.

Gambling With Murder: A Southern California Mystery by Lida Sideris
Level Best Books; March 29, 2022
I love this series by attorney/private investigator Corrie Locke. The entertainment business lawyer delves not only in the shenanigans of the movie business, she also has to confront a gambling scam in an expensive retirement community. The characters are hilarious and this series is a must-read for fans of Stephanie Plum.

Last Liar Standing: A Novel by Danielle M. Wong
Red Adept Publishing; June 2022
Amnesia stories are nothing new, but this author places her unique twist on it by Vonny Kwan learning that she was on the run before the accident that erased nine years of her life. The tension levels build to a high as she becomes distrustful of those around her and struggles to learn about her life. The challenge for readers will be for them to be able to stop reading once the first page opens and the plot kicks into high gear.

Sandra Murphy:

Each January, we pick our favorite reads from the previous year. Lately, I’ve noticed several authors show up annually. Since we’re limited in number (I cheat and share more than I’m supposed to), it hardly seems fair for repeaters to bump a new-to-me author, especially if the repeaters have more than one series out in the same year. It’s also unfair to leave a repeater’s great book off the list because they were on it before. This year, I split the list into newbies and repeaters.


A Cold Nose for Murder by Jennifer Hawkins
An old, boarded up tunnel, a missing motorcycle, a runaway lover, and Oliver, a talking Corgi (only to his person), all add up to a good who-dun-what tale. Set in the Cornish village of Trevena, it’s a treat of a read.

Dead-Bang Fall by J. R. Sanders
Level Best Books
Set in 1939, a small-time caper at a movie theater, an ex-cop on the run, two assassins, mobsters, a bigger scam, and bodies dropping left and right, what more could you ask for? I loved it.

Secret Lives by Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen Press
Ethel, in her 70s, is a quiet boardinghouse hostess, right? Not so much. When there’s a dead FBI agent, cryptocurrency, and bag of cash, there’s no one you can trust except family. Never underestimate an older woman. She’s got a lack of fear and more experience than younger people give her credit for … and it’s a deadly combination. I want to see more of her.

The Finalist by Joan Long
Level Best Books
Five authors are chosen to spend a week on a remote island, no communication with the outside world, just read a portion of a book written by an author who died, and write a killer ending. The author who remains true to the brand will continue the franchise. Maybe killer ending wasn’t meant to be taken literally.

The Wedding Plot by Paula Munier
An older couple tying the knot, a destination extravaganza of a wedding, a missing yoga instructor, fittings for bridesmaid dresses, a bomb sniffing dog, a poor guy pierced with a pitchfork, and oops, it’s time for hair and makeup. A typical wedding day, right? Loved the characters, especially the dogs.

Peril at the Exposition by Nev March
The Chicago World’s Fair, new-fangled electricity, a dead man, a missing man, and a wife determined to find him with the help of a street urchin who tried (and failed) to steal her purse. It’s good to remember we didn’t always have wifi, lights, and Google maps.

In Too Steep by Kate Kingsbury
Crooked Lane Books
An English tearoom in Oregon, not England, a missing replica clock, a murdered beachcomber who has nothing worth stealing, and a budding romance. What’s not to like?

The Usual Suspects:

Bark to the Future by Spencer Quinn
Forge Books
Help a derelict, find out you went to school with him, find him when he runs, an accidental death, a handmade switchblade knife, add in a pair of detectives (Bernie, the human, Chet the Dog) and you’ve got a twister of a mystery, loaded with humor only a dog can deliver.

David Rosenfelt, overachiever, had three books out last year!

Santa’s Little Yelpers
Take Andy Carpenter the reluctant lawyer, a fight that leads to a death, a man twenty years on the job suddenly fired, an embezzler, a jeweler, and four thugs, not to mention, eight golden retriever puppies at Christmastime, and it could only be a David Rosenfelt book.

Citizen K-9
The K-9 Team of Laurie, Marcus, Sam, and Simon Garfunkel, the retired police dog, have been hired by their cop friend, Pete, to solve cold cases. Who knew looking into two deaths that happened years ago, could cause so much trouble in the present?

Holy Chow
A Chow named Lion, a stepson, a sudden death, an investigative team of brains, muscle, a computer whiz, and Simon Garfunkel, well, you’re bound to solve the case, even with twists and turns designed to confuse.

Murder at the CDC by Jon Land
Forge Books
How can a missing tanker truck, a sitting senator, the sudden appearance of a daughter, a hole in a purse, a man who lives totally off the grid, an evangelical preacher, and a man in a Panama hat all weave into a heart stopping, hold your breath thriller? I’ve read and reviewed half a dozen of Land’s books now. This is by far the best.

Peg and Rose Solve a Murder by Laurien Berenson
Regular readers will know Berenson’s name from the Melanie Travis mystery books (poodles!) and Peg, her ever-efficient, dog-loving, some might say controlling, Aunt. Now Peg and her sister-in-law, Rose, are solving their own case of murder, and you couldn’t find two more different people. I’m sure the women have another murder in mind—each other’s!

Peppermint Barked by Leslie Budewitz
Seventh Street Books
Christmas is just weeks away, and Pepper and her employees are bagging peppermint tea, cinnamon, and cookbooks. With people dressed in Dickens-style costumes, family secrets coming unraveled, plots and plans going awry, and intertwined relationships discovered, it’s a fine holiday read. I’m glad I came back to the series and don’t know how I got behind.

Three Shots to the Wind by Sherry Harris
A bar on the beach, unsigned and extravagant gifts, a dead body, overly protective brothers, a hot boyfriend, and an interfering but well-meant (maybe) boss, combine into the perfect hot weather/hot romance read on a cold winter’s day. One of my favorites for sure.

The Lost by Jeffery Burton
A human remains detection dog named Elvira (Vira for short) who knows more than you’d expect a dog to know, a double kidnapping, and a textbook ransom demand, make for a great what-next story. Love Mace and Vira! Set aside time to read cover to cover, have snacks handy, and block out all distractions. The fast pace will carry you from page to page, anxious to see what happens next.

The Shadow of Memory by Connie Berry
Crooked Lane
Kate Hamilton spends part of her time in the US and part in the UK with her fiancé Tom. When in the UK, she lives with Vivian and her pug, Fergus. Now a sixty-year-old mystery has come back to haunt Vivian. With Kate and Tom’s help, Vivian might just survive.

The Unkept Woman by Allison Montclair,Minotaur
In 1946, two unlikely friends open a marriage agency. Both have pasts they must overcome but Sparks; her past involves espionage and secrets. Now it’s interfering with her current life, business and personal. Gwen is suffering a similar predicament with overbearing and in-control in-laws. The best they can do is keep moving forward to get the end results they need. Blackmail is not out of the questions, discretely done, of course.

Murder Through the English Post by Jessica Ellicott
Beryl is a daredevil, an adventuress. Edwina was brought up with a strict code of how things are done. The War has changed all that. Now they run a detective agency and their latest case is to find who is sending poison pen letters, accusing the receivers of all kinds of improprieties. Even in a small village, evil finds a way. Can Beryl and Edwina prevail? My money’s on them.

Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron
A cookbook and gadgets store set in an historic home, tours, a unexplained delivery, a dead body, it’s enough to make a fledgling shop owner throw in the tea towel. However, having survived an attention-craving husband’s stunt that left her a young widow and a job embarrassment of her own, Ricki is made of sterner stuff. Set in New Orleans, you know you need that recipe for crawfish étouffée!

Lorie Lewis Ham:

I say this every year but it’s true LOL, 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 2022, in no particular order, because they were all favorites.

I am going to start off with two series that I really enjoy and that have been on my list for the last few years. Movieland by Lee Goldberg is the latest in his Detective Eve Ronin series. While I enjoy all of Lee’s books that I have read through the years, this is my favorite series of his!

Another author who is always on my list is Keri Arthur. My favorite series of hers is her Lizzie Grace series–it is a perfect mix of fantasy and mystery! This year she released Sorrow’s Song in that series, but she also released the first book in a new series which I reviewed and enjoyed, Crown of Shadows. The new series still mixes fantasy with mystery but in a whole other way–this one involves pixies!

Next on my list is the first book in a new series, which is also the first book I have ever read by this author–The Marlow Murder Club By Robert Thorogood. This is another book that follows a current trend of senior amateur sleuths! While I may never have read his books before I am a huge fan of the TV show he created, Death in Paradise! I look forward to the second book in the series being released this year.

I reviewed a couple of really fun gay cozies this year–Desert Getaway By Michael Craft and Devil’s Chew Toy By Rob Osler. I also reviewed a reprint from Requeered Tales featuring a lesbian P.I.–Ninth Life By Lauren Wright Douglas.

This year I was double blessed with coffee mysteries! I love coffee and I love mysteries that involve coffee. First off, I reviewed the latest Coffeehouse mystery by Cleo Coyle (one of my absolute favorite series!) Honey Roasted. I also reviewed the latest in another coffee related series that I have also really enjoyed, Double Shot Death By Emmeline Duncan. Both series take place in towns that I love (one from afar and one I have visited many times)-New York and Portland! And both series have new books coming out this year and I can’t wait!

Never one to pass up a Sherlock Holmes mystery, I reviewed two of them last year–The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter By Timothy Miller and The Return of the Pharaoh: From the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. By Nicolas Meyer (this one was a special thrill because Nicolas Meyer is also a part of the Star Trek universe).

I am realizing as I write this that I read WAY more books than usual this year so this list is getting pretty long, but I hope you will indulge me as I wrap it up as it would be a shame to miss anyone at this point. This year I reviewed a book by one of my absolute favorite authors whose books I read but have never reviewed before, Anthony Horowitz! I reviewed The Twist of a Knife. I also reviewed Male Revues and Subterfuge By Heather Weidner, and The Still Small Voice By Brenda Stanley.

Lastly, I reviewed 2 books by an author that is quickly becoming a favorite, Neil Plakcy. While our podcast has featured several stories from his Golden Retriever mysteries I had never read one until I read and reviewed Dog’s Honest Truth last year, and I fell in love–with the series and the crime-solving dog, Rochester. I also reviewed a stand-alone book from Neil, Being John Church. You can definitely expect to see more reviews of Neil’s books in 2023.

Sorry for such a long list but I hope you all find some gems here to try in the new year! Please share with us in the comments what some of your favorite books were in 2022 and I hope you keep coming back to KRL for more reviews & giveaways every week!

Happy Reading in 2023!

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 2023!

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:


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