by Amy Reade
Here is the latest installment of our new column, Top 5 Mysteries I Have Read During the Pandemic, this one from mystery author Amy Reade. 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.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve read a lot as the pandemic has turned 2020 on its head and graced us with a never-ending list of catastrophes, headaches, limitations, and other ugly surprises.
It’s nice to be able to curl up with a good book at the end of the day, to get away from the real world (with its mystery and danger), and get lost in a fictional world (of much better mystery and danger).
I had a hard time coming up with only five mysteries to highlight for this post, but here are the ones I chose, in the order in which I read them:
Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
I haven’t had the pleasure of watching the television series based on Cleeves’s Jimmy Perez books, but I hope to do that soon. As a huge fan of anything Scotland-related, I had a feeling I was going to love this book for its setting alone, and I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s an excerpt of my review:
“In this book, we meet Jimmy Perez, a detective in a remote area of Scotland’s isles. A young woman has been killed and Jimmy is not so sure the suspect arrested out of convenience and a certain amount of circumstantial evidence is the real killer. When similarities between this killing and one that took place years ago start to become clear, one has to wonder if there is a serial killer on the loose.
?Jimmy has his own demons to master, and the book gives us a taste of his background and personal history, both of which contribute to the difficulties he faces in confronting persons of interest in the murders.??This book held my interest from the first page to the last. I love a good mystery, and this one had mystery and thriller elements that made the reading exciting and fast. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.”
The Crown for Castlewood Manor by Veronica Cline Barton
In this first book of Cline Barton’s My American Almost-Royal Cousin Series, we meet Gemma, an American whose world has just turned upside-down. She gets an unexpected phone call and before you know it, things begin to look up. Here’s my review:
“This book starts out with a devastating discovery and a dream that dies in the span of a few gut-wrenching seconds. But this main character (Gemma) has moxie, and she’s not going to let a little thing like a two-timing fiancé destroy her future.
?When Gemma gets an offer from her almost-royal British cousin to come to England and help his estate win a prestigious competition to host a new British tv period drama, she happily takes on the challenge and the game is afoot, so to speak.??But when Gemma arrives in England, it isn’t long before everyone begins to realize that there’s more at stake here than just hosting the tv show; lives are at stake, too, and someone will stop at nothing to sabotage the competitors.??This is an absolutely delightful cozy mystery that has everything an Anglophile will love: a gorgeous estate with breathtaking grounds, an impressive royal connection, a certain dreamy romantic interest, the world’s greatest dress-up collection, horses, and of course, murder. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a great cozy mystery.”
Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin
I discovered Jackie Baldwin on Twitter, and because I love all things Scotland (see above note about Ann Cleeves!), I gave this new-to-me author a try. I’m so glad I did! This is the first in a (so-far?) three-book mystery-thriller series, so I’m looking forward to reading more about Inspector Frank Farrell. Here’s my review:
“If you’re looking for a thriller that will keep you up all night, look no further.
?Detective Inspector and ex-priest Frank Farrell has returned to Dumfries, Scotland, the town where he grew up. His first day on the job finds him leading an investigation into the murder of a local priest, one whom he knew and who happened to have forced him from the priesthood many years earlier.
?Such an occurrence in the first week at a new job would be hard for anyone, but then two young boys go missing and Frank is plunged into that investigation, too. He can’t help but feel the two cases are related, and when haunting events from Frank’s past begin to recur, Frank knows he has to act quickly to find the killer or killers before tragedy strikes again.??This book is filled with tantalizing hints of Frank’s backstory that are revealed in dribs and drabs as the book progresses, and it only serves to make the reader want to turn the pages faster and faster to get to the end, which is thrilling and chilling. The characters in the book are well-developed; some are likable and some aren’t, just like real life. The pacing is non-stop in a good way, and the internal struggles of the main character only serve to make him even more interesting and realistic.
?I can’t wait to read the second book in the series.”
The Innocents by C.A. Asbrey
This is another first-in-a-series mystery. The main character is a female Pinkerton detective who, besides having a murder to solve, also has to deal with the prejudices and vitriol that went along with women in professional positions in the 1860s. Here’s my review:
“I couldn’t put this book down. It had everything I love in a story: mystery, suspense, romantic tension, a quick pace, and well-drawn characters. It’s even got a train robbery—or two. It’s the story of a female Pinkerton detective and her charming rogue of a quarry, who just happens to save her life and who she finds simultaneously confounding, intelligent, caring, and annoying.
?I’ve had this book on my Kindle for a while and I’m just sorry it took me so long to get to it. I can’t wait to read book #2 in the series. Well done, C.A. Asbrey!”
Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson
This is the first in Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries. Are you seeing a pattern here? I’m one of those readers who likes to start series at the beginning and read the books in order. This was a great historical cozy mystery and one that obviously appeals to many readers since the series is a long one (I think book #23 came out this year!). Here’s my review:
“I was looking for a good historical mystery and this one drew me in immediately. It’s the first in a long series, and I look forward to reading the rest of the books.
Main character Sarah Brandt is a member of a prominent Manhattan family, but it becomes clear that she was forced to leave that life behind when she married her husband. Now that the husband has passed away, she has remained among the slums and tenements of New York, performing midwife and nurse duties for the city’s poor.??When Sarah is called to a boarding house to deliver a baby in the middle of the night, she catches a glimpse of someone she thought she knew—and old acquaintance from her socialite days. And when that someone is found dead the following day, Sarah is plunged into the search for the girl’s murderer alongside gruff and enigmatic NYC police detective Frank Malloy. This story takes twists and turns from the poorest to the richest neighborhoods of NYC, and the ending will take you by surprise. Highly recommend!”
I was very fortunate to be able to release the first book in a new collection during the pandemic. Cape Menace is the first book in my new Cape May Historical Mystery Collection. Each book in the collection will be a standalone mystery set during a different time period in the history of Cape May, New Jersey, and the surrounding villages. Here’s the blurb:
“The year is 1714. Two years have passed since Ruth Hanover vanished into the wilderness of the New Jersey colony without a trace, leaving behind her husband, William, and their daughter, Sarah. Though William and Sarah have never stopped hoping that Ruth will return, as time goes by it becomes less and less likely they will ever see her again. Now William is acting strangely. He won’t tell Sarah why he’s conducting business with a mysterious stranger in the middle of the night, he won’t explain the sudden increase in his income, and he won’t share with her what people in town are saying about her mother’s disappearance. When the time comes for Sarah to face her father’s secrets and figure out why her mother never came home that December day in 1712, what she learns will shock her tiny community on the New Jersey cape and leave her fighting for her life.”
You can find the book by clicking this link: books2read.com/u/mv5ao6. Right now I’m working on Book 2 which will take place during the American Revolution.
There were so many other mysteries (and non-mysteries) I read and enjoyed during the pandemic (see them all on my Goodreads page at www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade), and as I write this post, it seems the Second Wave is beginning to rear its ugly head. We may find ourselves in lockdown again, and if we do, I look forward to spending the time in my house doing a lot of reading.
Stay safe and be well, everyone! If you’d like to learn more about me and my books (I write cozy, historical, and Gothic mysteries), please visit my website at www.amymreade.com.
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 went up last week.
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