by Kim Heniadis
Here is the latest installment of our new column, Top 5 Mysteries I Have Read During the Pandemic, this one from mystery reviewer Kim Heniadis. 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 an avid reader, reviewer, and book industry insider for over twenty years, I have come across a lot of great books. With the pandemic raging on, I’ve found that I want to give back to the book community even more, since reading has been a constant source of good in my life.
In August, I started a Cozy Mystery Launch Party group on Facebook to corral all the events I had been coming across into one place. I was realizing that I often would not find out about the party or live event until the day after, so I knew others were having this problem, too. The group has expanded into me hosting book parties for authors, weekly giveaways, and author debuts. With an eye to the future, I am going to be hosting author and blog takeovers, live events, and start having bigger giveaways.
After you read about my top five reads during the pandemic, I hope you’ll come on over and check out the Cozy Mystery Launch Party group on Facebook.
1. Without a Brew (A Sloan Krause Mystery 4) by Ellie Alexander is another fantastic book in this cozy mystery series. I come back to a lot of cozy series for the characters and community, but Alexander’s descriptions of the town, weather, interior design, and Bavarian culture is so phenomenal that this is what has me preorder books in this series. But that’s not to say that she doesn’t write well-developed characters and a good plot, because she’s a master at that, too.
Alexander does a great job with all the different plot lines and advancing Sloan’s character. There are some red herrings and a climactic ending with Sloan and the killer that has the perfect amount of tension. You could read this as a stand alone, but why would you want to?
2. The Puccini Connection (A Milkwood Murder 1) by Sam Bond has me wishing I could give it more than five stars, it was so flippity flip-flop excellent. What often pushes a cozy towards a five-star rating is how well the author describes the town, clothes, etc…and if the characters are well developed. Bond is leaps and bounds above a lot of other cozy mysteries in the description department.
Even though I don’t read a lot of books set in England, the countryside, outfits, meals, and architecture were so vivid in their descriptions that I could smell the food they were eating and could feel Claude’s (who’s a zedonk!) bristly fur. I always visualize what I am reading, adding my own details when need be, but the words off the page so wonderfully illustrated everything that the pictures in my mind were in technicolor! Plus Bond seamlessly weaves in interesting facts about classical music and it’s used to add another fantastic layer to the mystery. I don’t listen to classical, but Bond has inspired me to do so.
3. The Guest List by Lucy Foley is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but what really makes me enjoy it, along with Foley’s other novel, The Hunting Party, is that her writing reminds me of Christopher Pike (whom I read with wild abandon when I was a teen) and that she writes bad people really well.
The Guest List has some likable characters and a few that I felt sorry for in regards to circumstances that others, as well as themselves, had brought upon themselves. There are still a bunch of rich, narcissistic, and psychopathic people in this book, and I am not ashamed to admit I was happy to see some of them get their comeuppance. The way Foley ties everything up is done masterfully, even if one must suspend their belief in order for it to be believed. But that’s what is great about reading fiction, you get to just enjoy the story.
Right off, I want to mention animal violence. It fit into the story, but I am never one for animal violence… kill all the people you want though. But luckily it was more towards the beginning so I wasn’t as in love with all the dogs yet. But every time I knew it was coming up, I would put the book down and whine to my husband how people are cruel and don’t hurt the animals!
The information given in regards to how dogs are trained and how they work to detect dead bodies was really interesting and added a terrific layer to The Finders. The first part of the book laid down background information on the very well developed characters, including all the dogs, but it was the last 100 pages or so that were a whirlwind of action with lots of twists and a really demented serial killer. And talking about serial killers, there is a twist with that in the book that added yet another disturbing layer.
5. Caged (Agent Sayer Altair 1) by Ellison Cooper was a fast paced serial killer thriller filled with great character development and a multi-level puzzle that had me guessing until towards the end. Cooper mentioned one clue that I thought was too big to overlook, and it was at that point I was pretty sure I knew who was the killer. I really enjoyed how the clues and twists were laid out so evenly in the book and not everything being rushed at the end.
Sayer has some quirks to her which made her character even better; riding a motorcycle with a sidecar (so she can transport dogs and grandmas when need be!) and she was able to keep her emotions together… until she wasn’t, just like most of us. This made Sayer feel even more real to me. I also enjoyed how laid back her partner was, and I can’t wait to get to know even more about her neighbor, Tino.
If you do read Caged and enjoy it as much as I did, you may want to try the Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell series by Chelsea Cain, one I always love to recommend, and it seems I might be recommending the Agent Sayer Altair series all the time now too.
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.