Susan Van Kirk’s Top Five Mysteries Read During the Pandemic

Sep 9, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Susan Van Kirk

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

Murder at the Mill: A Mystery by M.B. Shaw
Iris Grey, an artist who wears delightfully quirky clothes, decides to rent a Hampshire cottage on the Wetherby estate. Dominic Wetherby, the patriarch, is a well-known crime writer and soon Iris is hired to paint a portrait of him. This draws her into the Wetherby family where she, and we, study their relationships. On the eve of the traditional Wetherby Christmas Eve party for the entire village, Dominic’s body is found in the river. Was it an accident? A murder? Add the small village gossip that flies around every corner, the Wetherby family members, and secrets from the past, and you have a first-rate, complicated mystery. I particularly enjoyed the family dynamics and the tangled web of their past.

Hid from Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming
I love this kind of mystery where there are multiple, similar murders in different times, and you struggle to figure out the connections. This is the ninth Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne book, and readers have waited a long time for this newest addition. It was well worth the wait. In Millers Kill, three murders—in 1952, 1972, and today—occurred with eerily similar crime scenes. A young woman in a party dress is been murdered with no apparent cause. The current police chief, Russ van Alstyne, was actually implicated in the ’72 murder when he was just back from Vietnam. As a “person of interest” back then, he now must hurry to find this killer before he is taken off the case. In the current-day murder, he struggles to figure out the connections with help from his wife, Clare, who is a minister at St. Alban’s Church and a new mother.

mysteryA Legacy of Murder by Connie Berry
American antique dealer, Kate Hamilton, is back in this second traditional British mystery following A Dream of Death. This time Kate is visiting her daughter Christine and her boyfriend Tristin in the cozy English village of Long Barston. Lady Barbara, the owner of Finchley Hall, asks Kate to take over the treasure trove called the Finchley Hoard when an intern who was curating the treasures is murdered. Then Kate’s daughter is implicated in the intern’s murder, and Kate knows she must find the real killer. Through her research, she discovers a similar murder took place centuries earlier to the person charged with overseeing the Finchley Hoard. (This certainly doesn’t sound good for Kate!) Lady Barbara has planned a huge celebration to introduce these treasures to the public, although the atmosphere is a bit anxious after a murder. Add to that a robbery ring working in the area. I’ve read both books in this series and they are perfect for readers who love traditional British mysteries. Two more are in the works. (You can listen to a Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast episode featuring the first chapter of this book here)

Outsider: A Novel of Suspense by Linda Castillo
This is the twelfth novel in Castillo’s series about Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police in Painter’s Mill. In her earlier life, Kate was Amish, but broke away from that religious group to pursue a career in police work. In Outsider, Adam Lengacher, an Amish farmer and widower with a young family, finds a car in the middle of a snowstorm with an unconscious woman covered in blood. He contacts Burkholder and takes the woman back to his farmhouse to give her first aid. When Kate arrives, she knows the woman—Gina Colorosa—a police officer from another town and a former colleague and friend. As it turns out, Gina is on the run from other cops. She asks Kate for help, but Kate remembers their past and doesn’t know if she can trust Colorosa. She calls John Tomasetti, her domestic partner and state agent, and together they try to discover the truth. But whoever is after Colorosa is relentless in their pursuit. Will they find and kill her before Kate and John can discover the truth? Castillo uses massive snowstorms in this suspense-filled mystery to make the reader feel claustrophobic and the characters trapped.

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths
This is a perfect book for readers who like psychological suspense and Gothic thrillers. Clare Cassidy, a high school teacher and expert in R.M. Holland’s Gothic stories, is drawn into a murder when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from one of Holland’s stories left beside her. The detective on the case, Harbinder Kaur, is thirty-five and a closeted gay Sikh. She lives with her parents who wish she would find a nice guy to marry. Much of the suspense is supplied by multiple narrators of the story. Like most Gothic tales, the locations are creepy, and the atmosphere is dark. Clare writes her concerns about all that is happening in her diary. Then, strangely, “someone else” takes over her diary, writing messages that are terrifying. It’s a good book to read in the daylight.

My novel: A Death at Tippitt Pond—A Sweet Iron Mystery
Secrets long buried surround the murder of teenage Melanie Tippitt. The daughter of a wealthy family in a small town, her lifeless body was found floating in Tippitt Pond in the summer of 1971. Six people were there that day, and one was convicted of her murder. Case closed.

Now, forty-five years later, Beth Russell, a freelance researcher and genealogist, is brought to the town by a lawyer who believes Russell is the daughter of Melanie Tippitt and long-lost heir to the Tippitt fortune. Soon Beth finds herself surrounded by people who want her gone as soon as possible, people with a great deal to lose. The more they push, the more determined Beth is to discover the truth. With the help of a handsome detective, Beth vows to uncover what happened that day at Tippitt Pond. The ghostly presence of Melanie Tippitt, a stranger watching from the woods, and the discovery of secrets in Tippitt House make for a suspense-filled investigation where Beth discovers a death at Tippitt Pond changed everything.

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:

Susan Van Kirk lives at the center of the universe—the Midwest—and writes during the ridiculously cold, snowy, icy winters. Why leave the house and break something? Her Endurance Mysteries—Three May Keep a Secret, The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney, Marry in Haste, and Death Takes No Bribes—are humorous cozies about a retired school teacher in the small town of Endurance who finds herself in the middle of murders. Her new series about Beth Russell combines history and mystery in her debut, A Death at Tippitt Pond. Van Kirk taught for forty-four years in high school and college, raised three children, miraculously has low blood pressure, and is blissfully retired. Besides writing mysteries, she’s currently the president of the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. You can find out about her books 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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