Joseph R. G. De Marco’s Top 5 Mysteries Read During the Pandemic

Aug 19, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Joseph R. G. De Marco

Here is another installment of our new column, Top 5 Mysteries I Have Read During the Pandemic, this one from mystery author Joseph R. G. De Marco. As we continue to spend most of our time at home, we are all looking for book suggestions so we asked mystery authors and reviewers to share the top 5 mysteries they have read during this pandemic.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
A great fun read. The dialogue sparkles with wit and charm and everything about the book shines. Nick and Nora Charles are compellingly sophisticated, witty sleuths. The rich, glamorous, heavy drinking couple manage to solve crimes despite the number of drinks they consume. The rest of the characters are equally well drawn and a lot of fun to read. This murder mystery should keep you reading through the quarantine and the sequels will also keep you entertained. This tale is filled with intrigue and Nick and Nora must plough through misinformation, misdirection, false identities, crazy alibis, outright lies and deception, and a general sense of confusion constructed by each character for his or her own reasons. At the heart of the story is a quirky inventor who may or may not be mad, may or may not be a killer, may or may not be an evil genius behind a sinister plot. Nick and Nora do their best to figure it out.

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders
When London book editor, Samantha Clair, meets author Kit Lowell for lunch to discuss Kit’s new inside the fashion industry tell-all book, she has no idea the trouble the book will cause even before it’s in print. A handsome police inspector, Field, shows up at her office inquiring about a package addressed to her and she knows something is not at all right. Her work-a-day world is officially off-kilter. She realizes that someone doesn’t want Kit’s book published and will do just about anything to stop it—including murder. The cast of characters from Samantha to her Goth assistant, to her glamorous mother, to any number of others including the attractive detective make this a delight. The writing is intelligent, witty, colorful, and breezy without being simplistic. This is one greatly entertaining book that will make you forget the quarantine for a while.

Murder on Theater Row by Michael Jahn
Theater lovers will enjoy this quirky mystery, the fifth in the Bill Donovan series. Captain Donovan is a detective who seems to specialize in murders in which weird weaponry and special circumstances are part of the deal. This time it’s murder with a crossbow in a theater. The killer is also continually interrupting rehearsals which can have serious financial and other repercussions for the historic theater. This is a mystery with a lot of moving parts – the murder, a possible vengeful ghost, behind the scenes (literally) machinations, humor, detailed knowledge of contemporary as well as historical New York, colorful suspects, and more. If you love the theater or just enjoy being around the NY theater district, this book will keep you entertained.

Diamond Rings are Deadly Things by Rachelle J. Christensen
Wedding planner Adrielle Pyper is good at her job and at pleasing bridezillas. Her once-thriving business in a distant city was shattered by the death of her client and friend. Moving to Sun Valley, Idaho, her hometown, is the only way Adrielle can think of to heal and restart her business. The resort town attracts the rich and famous. Adrielle is hired by two high profile clients whose weddings will put her business on the map. Adrielle employs Lorea, a talented dressmaker and friend who encourages her to get back to dating. When not one but two men enter her life, Adrielle figures things are looking up. But her shop is burglarized and several one-of-a-kind gowns for the high profile weddings are stolen. Adrielle knows it wasn’t the dresses that were the target. There had to be something else. Between the race to find the secrets of the gowns, the progress she’s making with the guys who want to date her, and a few other issues, this cozy mystery will keep you reading until you know the answers to the multiple mysteries in Sun Valley.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia McNeal
It’s 1940 and the Blitz is about to tear London to shreds. Maggie Hope, top of her MIT class, with a quick mind and first rate analytical skills, takes a job as a typist at 10 Downing Street. For those in charge, her typing and other secretarial skills are all that makes her employable. Never mind that she can compete with the best of them in code-breaking. Maggie, occupying the London house left to her, gathers a group of roommates and people she works with to make the circumstances bearable. Soon, however, she and others are drawn not only into the snares created by the War but also by the Northern Ireland conflict. Working for the Prime Minister eventually gives Maggie access and clearance but her work for Churchill is not the only reason the bigwigs have their eye on her. There are secrets even she is not aware of and which propel her into the web of espionage, family issues, treachery, secret assassination plans, and more. Maggie deftly untangles one mystery after another knowing that the fate of England and the War may hang in the balance.

The Vermilion Secret by Joseph R.G. De Marco
This is my newest Marco Fontana mystery (#5) scheduled for early September publication. It’s on my list for lots of reasons, one of which is this entry in the series deals with one of my favorite topics: Art.

When Luciano Sforza comes to town, Marco Fontana is thrilled to spend time with his seldom-seen uncle. Their reunion, however, turns deadly. Luciano is in a tough position as the chair of a contentious committee which will decide the authenticity of a purported Botticelli. Battle lines are drawn and tempers flare. When one of Luciano’s assistants becomes the victim of a hit and run, Marco suspects she was targeted. A day later, Luciano is discovered standing over the body of Morgan Cooper, his old enemy and committee rival. The police only focus on investigating Luciano, forcing Marco to prove his uncle’s innocence before an arrest is made. But the answers Marco needs are complex and seem wrapped in closely guarded secrets. Does the informal competition over finding forgeries by the infamous Vermilion play a part in the murder? Or, is the contest for a prestigious museum directorship at the heart of it all? Or is it the disputed Botticelli painting? Every facet of the case makes the search for the killer seem impossible. At the same time, Marco contends with knotty personal issues and problems among his friends and the members of his male strip troupe. Aided by friends Luke, Nina, his inimitable secretary Olga, and his cousin Vinnie—angling to become his PI partner—Marco juggles everything in his own way. But will he be able to save his uncle before the man is arrested or will The Vermilion Secret claim another victim?

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, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode just went up!

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

Joseph R.G. DeMarco is the author of the Marco Fontana mystery series beginning with: Murder on Camac (Jade Mountain Books). His Doyle and Kord mystery series begins with Family Bashings (JMS Books). He is also author of the Vampire Inquisitor series beginning with A Warning in Blood (Jade Mountain Books). A number of his short stories have been published in anthologies including The Quickies series (Arsenal Pulp Press), Men Seeking Men, Charmed Lives, and more. His nonfiction work appears in Paws and Reflect, Hey Paisan!, The Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities, We Are Everywhere, Men’s Lives, and others. He is the Editor/Publisher of Mysterical-E ( You can learn more at

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.


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