by Leslie Budewitz
Here is the latest installment of our new column, Top 5 Mysteries I Have Read During the Pandemic, this one from mystery author Leslie Budewitz. 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.
So many elements must come together just right for a good mystery—plot, character, language, theme, setting. As both reader and writer, location is huge for me, so it’s no surprise that my favorite mystery reads of the last few months have featured pitch-perfect portrayals of intriguing places. And of course, armchair travel is not just the next best thing but the only thing right now.
Pour a cup of the beverage appropriate to the locale and take a quick trip with me, on the page.
Mission to Paris by Alan Furst (2012) – In January, Mr. Right and I had a grand adventure, flying to Paris to see the Louvre’s exhibit commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo DaVinci in France in 1519. Besides spending the day at the exhibit, which was truly magnificent, we wandered Paris, getting lost, and finding churches and statues and gardens we might never have found with a plan. So in May, when I found myself craving a touch of Paris, I scoured my shelves but came up with only one unread novel set in the City of Lights, no doubt a promotional copy picked up at a mystery convention. Historical espionage, set in 1938-39, following an Austrian-born American actor in Paris to make a movie who finds himself the target of German operatives who need a mole in the industry. The actor’s home base in Paris is a hotel in the First—la Première, the district where we stayed—and I relished tracing his travels through the city with the map on the frontispiece and my own memory. Furst has written a series of novels set in Europe in the run up to WW II and during the war, and they’re worth searching out.
Cruel Winter by Sheila Connolly (2017) – My dear friend Sheila, who died in April, had a special fondness for Ireland. This, the fifth in her County Cork series, is one of those books you hate to finish because it’s so stinking good. Connolly neatly twists the conventions of the locked-room mystery. Instead of a killing in a closed setting, the locals and visitors stranded in Sullivan’s Pub during a freak snowstorm find that one of their number is a woman long suspected of a local murder. Never charged, she’s never gotten a full hearing, until Maura, the young American pub owner, asks the woman to tell her story. The other patrons prove the adage that a jury as a whole is smarter than its individual members; they ask questions, test the evidence, poke holes, analyze motives, and identify the likely killer, who is arrested after the weather clears. Maura takes charge as a strong leading character should in this terrific eight-book series.
The Murderess of Bayou Rosa by Ramona De Felice Long (2020) – If there were a prize for best title, this would win. Set in the early 1920s in a small town southwest of NOLA, with later scenes in Baton Rouge and Memphis, it’s the story of Geneva Amais, a young teacher, and her mother, Joelle, the murderess. Family secrets drive this book, and it’s a great trip through an intriguing time and place.
The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams (2018) The first book in this series, The Secret, Book & Scone Society, was so intriguing that I could hardly wait to see how the series progressed. And truth be told, the second book is even better. Nora Pennington runs a bookshop in Miracle Springs, North Carolina, and shares a passion for helping others in the community with her three close friends, a baker, a hair stylist, and a spa employee. A mysterious young woman who loves books as much as Nora does takes refuge in the bookshop, and the four friends recognize another deeply wounded soul when they see one. Then murder intervenes, and they find themselves questioning every thing they know about the young stranger, even as they try to help her. I particularly loved the author’s use of a mysterious collection of books.
Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (2018) Since her husband’s death, Eden has hated night. But when she finds a reservation for a guest house at a dark sky park in her late husband’s papers, she feels compelled to make the trip—only to find six other guests, old college friends, also staying there. A murder occurs and local law enforcement suspect her. As she delves into the mystery thrust upon her, Eden peels back layers of secrets and gains insight into both herself and her late husband. Rader-Day uses the park and the stars both literally and metaphorically, to great effect.
Take a trip to Seattle with me with The Solace of Bay Leaves (2020), is the fifth Spice Shop mystery set in Pike Place Market, a place I fell in love with more than forty years ago as a college freshman, for its history, its fascinating shops, and most of all, its food. Pepper Reece never expected to find her life’s passion in running the Seattle Spice Shop. But when evidence links a friend’s shooting to an unsolved murder, her own regrets surface. Can she uncover the truth and protect those she loves before the deadly danger boils over?
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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.