Susan Oleksiw’s Top 5 Mysteries I Have Read during the Pandemic

Aug 26, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Susan Oleksiw

Here is the latest installment of our new column, Top 5 Mysteries I Have Read During the Pandemic, this one from mystery author Susan Oleksiw. 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.

Do or Die: A Mali Anderson Mystery by Grace F. Edwards
Grace Edwards died on February 25, 2020, but she left behind a seven-book series featuring ex-cop Mali Anderson and the changing landscape of Harlem. Just back from a working cruise on the QE2, Mali’s dad finishes a gig ripping mad. He’s given Starr Hendrix, sexy, beautiful, and a vibrant singer, top billing with his jazz band, but she failed to show up. Worse, her dad also was a no-show. But anger evaporates when Mali and her dad learn Starr was brutally murdered. A fast-paced tale in contemporary Harlem, the story moves deep into the world of jazz clubs, Harlem subcultures, and the people who populate them.

Finding Katarina M. by Elisabeth Elo
A successful surgeon in Washington, DC, Dr. Natalie March believes she and her mother, Vera, a Russian immigrant, are the last of their line until Saldana, a young Russian dancer on an arts visa, arrives in her office, claims to be a cousin, and asks for help in defecting. Natalie ultimately believes her, but before she can help, the dancer is found murdered in New York City, her laptop and phone missing. Natalie has the task of telling Saldana’s mother in Russia, a woman she didn’t even know existed. Lena persuades Natalie to visit Russia and promises to take her to meet her grandmother. Vera urges her to go, that she might once again talk to her own mother, long thought to have died in the labor camps. Natalie arrives in Yakutsk, but there is no sign of Lena. So begins an adventure in which Natalie learns that no one in this vast country can be trusted, fear is pervasive, and the landscape is as dangerous as the people. Elo takes the reader on a never-pausing wild adventure through eastern Siberia, into worlds that most of us have never heard of let alone imagined.

The Murderess of Bayou Rosa by Ramona DeFelice Long
When Joelle Amais shoots her lover, Victor Mayet, in the back, she refuses to give anyone a reason, even if it will save her from hanging. The only person fully on her side is her daughter, Geneva, who has recently returned from life in a convent where she was sent by her grandmother to protect her from her mother’s influence. The murdered man is the local judge’s brother-in-law, but he wasn’t beloved or even respected among the townspeople. Women have just received the vote, a lawyer agrees to represent Joelle, and the new sheriff undertakes her protection in the same way he faced the war and the death of his comrades–with quiet stoicism. Each character, even the most minor ones, is fully drawn. Beautifully written and intricate and at times even delicate in how it captures this world, this is the story of an entire village as well as the mystery surrounding one death. Only near the end does the reader learn Joelle’s motive, which has to be one of the most satisfying and true discoveries I’ve ever read.

To Darkness and to Death by Julia Spencer-Fleming
A woman decides to sell prime forest land. Her decision threatens the livelihood of all those who depend on the logging industry around Millers Kill–loggers, truckers, a paper mill, seasonal laborers. No one is happy except the seller and her allies. Just before the sale is finalized, she goes missing. Reverend Clare Ferguson joins the search for the missing woman even though it means once again working alongside Chief of Police Russ Van Allstyne. Set in the Adirondacks, the story explores the interlocked world of the paper industry and the changes coming from those hoping for an economy renewed in other ways. Once again Clare and Russ struggle against their desires; complicating matters is Clare’s beau from New York and Russ’s loyalty to his wife. This is an intricately plotted tale set in a world little known today.

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda
In the 1960s, at a festive gathering at the home of a doctor of a popular clinic, seventeen members of a family are poisoned with cyanide. Only one remains, Hisako, the blind daughter of the household. A tragedy that defies reason, the deaths seem senseless and the police at a loss for a suspect and a motive until eventually they settle on a young delivery boy. A neighbor child is given an oblique warning to skip the party, and ten years later her curiosity leads her to explore the terrible crime. Through conversations with neighbors about the crime and subsequent events, bits and pieces of that fateful afternoon come to light until gradually a picture emerges that is different from the official police report. The story of the murders is intriguing and then disturbing for the versions and interpretations left at the wayside by the original investigators focused on finding a culprit rather than understanding the apparently inexplicable.

Below the Tree Line: A Pioneer Valley Mystery by Susan Oleksiw
Felicity O’Brien loves farming and her family land, but she has no illusions about its value. When a speculator arrives in the area and offers extremely generous prices for local farmland, she is suspicious. At the same time, a young woman Felicity has met only once turns up dead in her woods. Convinced something more than a passion for land is involved, she joins with her lover, Jeremy Colson, to investigate the newcomer and the dead woman.??

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Susan Oleksiw writes three mystery series, including the Mellingham/Chief Joe Silva series set on the New England coast; the Anita Ray series set in South India; and the Felicity O’Brien series set in a farming community in central Massachusetts. Her short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. Find her nonfiction in the Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing.

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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