by Mollie Cox Bryan
Here is the latest installment of our new column, Top 5 Mysteries I Have Read During the Pandemic, this one from mystery author Mollie Cox Bryan. 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.
As a cozy mystery author, I try not to read in my genre when I’m in writing mode, which I have been for most of the pandemic. Looking over my list of mysteries I’ve read during this time, I’m happy to see I didn’t break my vow to myself. (I love a good cozy, and sometimes one slips into my reading stack, even when I’m writing…)
Another thing that strikes me about this list is that my love of history comes through strong. In my new novella series The Victoria Town Mysteries, set in a contemporary town but with a ton of Victorian history, I get to play with history, and it’s been great
Personally I don’t like reviews or recommendations that are a rehash of the story, so I’ll just give you a bit, but will focus mostly on why I’m recommending them.
1. The Anatomist’s Wife (A Lady Darby Mystery Book 1) by Anna Lee Huber gave me dreams of the Scottish Highlands–a unique setting for a historical mystery. I loved Lady Darby, who as a widow to a less than decent man, tried to navigate the social challenges she’s left with, along with investigating a murder. The prose is a gentle weaving and strikes a balanced, nuanced chord lacking in so many historical fictions with women as the main character. Well done!
2. Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang is on the other end of the historical fiction spectrum for me. Fast paced and set in NYC, Kang delves into opium addiction, vampire lore, and strange beliefs held in 1899. The story clipped along quickly, and the characters leapt right off the page—a delightful study of how historical fiction can succeed without taking on that “back in the day” tone. If you like to be surprised by the ending, you’ll love this book.
3. The Glass Room (A Vera Stanhope Mystery) by Ann Cleeves. Full disclosure: Vera Stanhope is one of my favorite characters. Ever. In my view, writer Ann Cleeves can do no wrong. This book is set around a writer’s retreat, which pulled me right in. I’m a big fan of the TV series, too. If you need a good binge-watching recommendation, check it out.
4. The Wrong Mother (A Zailer and Waterhouse Mystery) by Sophie Hannah kept me up at night. Which is not a good thing when you have to work the next day. But it is a great thing to say about a psychological suspense book. Hannah is at the top of her game, here, telling a riveting, dark, twisty story—a novel of smoke and mirrors. I couldn’t put it down.
5. A Dangerous Collaboration (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery) by Deanna Raybourn is a fun ride through history, mystery, and intrigue. Par for the course in this series. This book is set on a remote island off Cornwall and offers atmosphere to the nth degree. If you haven’t started reading this series at book one, you can certainly still enjoy this one. But why not read them all? In all of her historical fiction, Raybourn’s prose sings and her historical research is impeccable. A masterful storyteller. Read the whole series. You won’t be sorry.
Masquerade Murder by Mollie Cox Bryan.
The Halloween Masquerade Ball in Victoria Town, Virginia, is a yearly celebration of all things that go bump in the night. Masked attendees come from across the country to experience an authentic Victorian celebration.
Viv Barton throws herself into the fray by volunteering to lead games in the “Mirror Room” of the old Victorian Mansion, Gaylord Hall. When a woman dressed in widow regalia catches Viv’s attention, Viv follows her down the snaking halls, through the ballroom, and onto the veranda, where the woman disappears and leaves a dead body in her wake—the town priest who had more than his share of secrets.
When Viv’s friend, Irene, is suspected of the crime, she works to prove Irene’s innocence, unearthing clues, secrets, and deadly obsessions along the way—proving that Victorian Town history isn’t always what it seems.
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 Play, and Spotify. A new episode just went up!
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.