You’re the Top! My Best From 2020

Jan 30, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze, TV

by Kathleen Costa

Enjoy my top favorite authors and their work from 2020 and get an opportunity to win a $3 Amazon ecard. For your entry to be valid, comment with the answer to the post question ‘What was your favorite author, series, or book from 2020?’ Happy reading in the New Year!

In 2020, I reviewed a record 181 entertaining books and explored a few cookbooks along with connecting with talented and delightfully friendly authors, including some beta reading opportunities. It was again a daunting task to choose my annual “Tops” because every book, and a few television shows, have provided me with hours of entertainment and some inspiration.

Top Favorite Authors!

H.Y. Hanna remains my all-time favorite author releasing a brand new series, Barefoot Sleuth Mystery perfect for the lockdown! Ellie Bishop is rescued from wintery boredom by her eccentric aunt with an invitation to spend a few weeks in sunny Florida, but sand, sea, and suntans are joined by the murder of a pushy mystery writer (Flip Flops and Murder) along with a squawking macaw, an egocentric food critic (my favorite Seashells and Murder)and Key Lime Pie, and an entitled wealthy businessman (Cocktails and Murder) with scorpions and alligators. Ellie should have heeded the “Be careful what you wish for” warnings, but the handsome resort doctor is a nice perk! Shout out to Pearl Hewitt who performs the brilliant narration for all of HY. Hanna’s books including her new Barefoot Sleuth Mystery series!

Abigail Keam allowed me to channel my inner flapper with her Mona Moon Mystery series. Set during the 1930s, Madeline “Mona” Moon is a liberated and adventurous woman whose bad “moon” turned to gold when she inherited a substantial fortune and large family estate. She takes Kentucky society by storm, improves the conditions of her grateful staff, captures the heart of neighbor Lord Bob, and relishes in the adventures she craves. There’s a deadly search for a legendary solver mine (Murder Under a Silver Moon), an entanglement in some martial disharmony, not hers (Murder Under a Wolf Moon), and in my favorite, she investigates a murder at the Derby (Murder Under a Black Moon). Beyond the clever drama, she always weaves in historic figures and events that I find fun to explore.

Erin Huss has jumped on the podcasting wagon with her Podcasting Sisters Mystery series combining friends, family, and fascinating cold cases. Twenty-something Liv Olsen left her behind-the-scenes position at a popular podcast show to go in front of the microphone with her own true crime podcast Missing or Murdered. Partnering with her step-sister Camry Lewis she explores a ten-year-old cold case (my favorite Microphones & Murder) finding secrets and surprises. She just might have a hit, and with her “podcasting posse,” she takes on a twenty-year-old cold case (Up Next, Murder) that has hit the front page when skeletal remains have been uncovered. Clever intrigue, tech talk about podcasting and good friends round out this entertaining duo.

Leslie Langtry continues to entertain with her Merry Wrath Mystery series bringing the spies, scouts, and snarky retort to delightful heights with four new adventures. Merry Wrath, name changed for security reasons, was a CIA operative whose identity was leaked. She escapes to a small town in Iowa and reimagines herself as the leader of a troop of cookie-selling, good-deed-doing Girl Scouts, who prefer spy gear and backing up their beloved leader when too many find her. From a dead body in her garage (Maltese Vulture Murder) to a Civil War reenactment gone wrong (my favorite Musket Ball Murder), from a visit by a Chechen terrorist (Macho Man Murder) to a final letter from her enigmatic Aunt June (Mad Money Murder), Merry has her work cut out for her wrangling several precocious ten year olds who can’t help be follow along.

Gin Jones has planted a couple of aromatic mysteries in her Garlic Farm Mystery series. Mabel Skinner, a somewhat lone app designer, has inherited her Aunt Peggy’s garlic farm, Stinkin’ Stuff Farm, and until she can sell it and go back to her own life, she’ll need to learn everything there is to know about garlic. A closer look causes her to be suspicious, rightfully so, about her aunt’s death (my favorite Six Cloves Under), and her new found friends are there to offer assistance. A sale has not been forecoming, so keeping up with the planting schedule is important (Rhubarb Pie Before You Die) until the death of a local “thorn-in-her-side” farmer puts her on the suspect list. Bonus recipes highlighting garlic are included!

Top Surprises!

Anna Celeste Burke is an all-time favorite with several cozy mysteries set in various California settings that are prominently on my “5-star” list, but this year she ventured into a magical direction with her book in a multi-author series Witches Academy. Her Muriel Bright (Kitchen Magic) is a foodie channel star bringing more to the kitchen than culinary skill. She’s a witch, and forces darker than her balsamic reduction will have their way! Anna herself stirs up bewitching treats in her own kitchen and shares four of those recipes in the book!

Terry Odell introduced me to Police Chief Gordon Hepler from her Mapleton Mystery series with a three-book police procedural which included books five-seven. Deadly Places, has Hepler on administrative leave and Ed Solomon, his second, in charge of investigation a “Deadbeat Dad” killer. Deadly Engagement is a two-fer following the suspended Hepler and his fiancée investigating a suspicious death on their vacation and Solomon investigating an assassination ring back home. Deadly Assumptions is a flashback into Hepler’s time as a young detective. Excellent characters. Clever and witty writing.

Sharon L. Dean released an engaging new drama with a cold case twist in the first book of her Deborah Strong Mystery, The Barn. Now tattered and age-worn, its creepy cow head sculpture, “Cowpie,” witnessed the murder of a young man thirty years ago. Deborah and her BFF Rachel had found the body, and after decades of nightmares, Rachel asks Deborah to help her find closure. The killer, however, is still out there and doesn’t want the case revisited. Compelling with a shocking conclusion.

Book Sumo Press has satisfied my addiction to cookbooks with a vast selection of from appetizers to desserts, all kinds of entrees in between, and many celebrating cultures all around the world…any everyday cook or master chef will relish their books; I have collected over seventy cookbooks free, 99c, or $2.99 just by “Following” their site on Amazon. I was bold in my first choice to explore the Japanese Cookbook: A Japanese Cookbook Filled with Easy Japanese Recipes for Simple Japanese Cooking to test some of my kitchen skill. Vanilla-Crusted Shrimp, Beef and Broccoli, and Japanese Fruit Pie. What delicious fun!

Top British Invasion on the Screen

Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (AcornTV) was the result of crowd-sourcing by fans who couldn’t live with no more Phryne and Jack adventures, especially after that final kiss. This movie is brilliant! It’s 1928 and a murder, a secret, and a glorious jewel sends Phryne, and reluctantly, Jack Robinson out into the desert! Will they?

Dead Still (AcornTV) is set in 1880s Dublin following Brock Blennerhasset, a well-renowned photographer, brusque, yet meticulous, skilled in memorial portraiture, a form of post-mortem photography popular in Victorian Era. However, black market photos of homicides interest the local detectives. Unique and intense, but witty and a fantastic cast!

Wild Bill (BritBox) stars Rob Lowe in a delightfully surprising police procedural. As an ex-pat in East Lincolnshire, England, Bill Hixon takes charge of a challenging situation: murder, organized crime, and corruption. Compelling and entertaining with an excellent cast (especially Bronwyn James as DC Muriel Yeardsley), but for some reason only last one season. But, better one than none!

Scott & Bailey (BritBox) is the British Cagney and Lacey with a brilliant ensemble cast lead by strong female characters, but a bit more intensity and edge. Beyond the Manchester CID investigations, the characters show their feelings and their flaws with conflicts between friends, spouses, and co-workers. The five seasons aired 2011-2016 and at the end, there is a nice “Whew, everything is alright” moment.

Endeavour (PBS) is a favorite flashback series following Morse (my all-time favorite detective) as a young detective, but this season it gets personal. What happens in Venice, didn’t stay in Venice. Morse has an affair, then discovers she is married…married to a man who may be a criminal. Of course, his partnership with Thursday is strained by Morse’s personality and method of investigating. The conclusion has justice, but is also sad.

Happy Shout Out!

YouTube is my best source for trailers, opening sequences or theme songs, interviews, and lost episodes. I add these links to many of my reviews of UK shows and movies as a special treat.

Google is my internet best friend. Many of the books and programs I review spark my interest in a character, various topics, or a historical event or personality. My googling leads me to domestic and international websites, news articles, or videos. My search history is quite eclectic.

Wikipedia is my other best friend. Often Google will send me to Wikipedia which provides additional background and details to historical and contemporary events, issues, and authors to enrich my reviews.

Evermine is my favorite resource for DIY projects and recipes that add as a “treat” to some of my reviews from holiday celebrations and gifts to specialty drinks and desserts to ideas on gardening and hobbies.

REMEMBER! To enter to win a $3 Amazon gift card to start off 2021, comment below with your answer to this question: What was your favorite author, series, or book from 2020?
?To enter via email, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “You’re the Top!” Be sure to include your answer to the post question for a valid entry. A winner will be chosen on February 6, 2021. You must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

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. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up this week.

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying year 2 of retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband of 26+ years.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. My favorite book was The Gray Man by Mark

  2. I think my favorite series of last year was The Diva series by Krista Davis. JL_Minter(at)hotmail(dot)com

  3. Good lists! Count me in the drawing!

  4. Joanne Fluke bakery shop series Hannah Swanson the main character.

  5. Thanks for including my book in this list of great authors. xx Anna

  6. It’s a three-way tie for me: Anna Celesta Burke, Hope Callaghan, and Kathi Daley.

  7. Favourite author Jana DeLeon
    Favourite series Erin Jonson’s magic market series
    Favourite book Elle Adams library witch mysteries books 1-3
    Favourite audio book Paula Lester Witch doggone killer?

    But I am sure if you asked me tomorrow I would put someone different as there are so many talented authors and great books out there.

  8. Favourite author -Jana DeLeon.
    Favourite series -Erin Johnson’s spells and caramels series.
    Favourite book- D.v Berkom Bad Traffick.
    Favourite audio book – J.D.Robb Born in death.

    But there are so many great authors and books I would probably come up with a different list tomorrow.

  9. Favourite author -Lynn Cahoon
    Favourite series -Tonya Kappes’ Camper series
    Favourite book- V.M. Burns’ Sit, Stay, Slay
    Favourite audio book – Barbara Ross’ Jane Darrowfield Professional Busybody
    kckendler at gmail dot com

  10. Linda Castillo
    Laura Bradford
    and many many more!?

  11. HY Hanna, I downloaded and listened to 5 books in a row during our 2nd lock down. My husband says he’s not listening but every now and then he pipes up “wait, isn’t that guy the murderer? ” “no, he’s not! We found that out 20mins ago! ” we stop before the reveal chapter and take bets who the murderer is. This needs to be adapted for TV!!!!

  12. Found two series when the last
    installment came out – now I’m
    working my way from the
    beginning to catch up.
    Julia Spenser-Fleming – Russ Van Alstyne and Clare Ferguson
    He is the police chief. She is an Episcopalian priest. I’m up
    to “To Darkness and to Death.”.
    The other is Arlene Sachitano’s Loose threads Mysteries.
    Quilters, family, mystery, and more – all rolled into one.

  13. We have a winner!


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