If #19 in my favorite cozy mystery series (The Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle) had come out this year, this post would be insanely short. Sadly, it’s not coming out until next year, which just gives me the problem of picking one from all the amazing mysteries I read this year.
It seems I mostly read fantasy books this past year as I’ve only read 13 mysteries and thrillers. Well, I had planned on picking up fewer books in this genre, so I guess I was successful. It’s only about 1 per month, though it doesn’t really feel like it since I’m posting 3 reviews for mysteries this month alone (the last 2 are set to post this week)!
Hmm, I wonder which of the 13 will turn out to be my favorite?
If you prefer women’s fiction, check out My Favorite Women’s Fiction Read of 2020 to find out which of the 16 I read I enjoyed the most.
Thrillers, cozies, and mixed genre. Mystery held a lot of surprises for me this year.
I have a hard time deciding if I like thrillers or cozies more, though I think the cozies win out this year. Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman and Who Did You Tell? by Lesley Kara were really the only thrillers I read. Both are psychological thrillers, though one deals with amnesia and the other alcoholism. I clearly got a thriller feel from both of them, but was disappointed by Mr. Nobody even though it brought me back to my neuropsychology roots. Who Did You Tell? felt more like a thriller with characters popping in and out and back in again and never knowing who to believe, but then there’s a heavy romance bit that I wasn’t too fond of and, honestly, it was a very strange mix of thriller and women’s fiction.
Instead of jumping into the cozies, I want to detour into the mixed genre mysteries. These are the ones that blur together mystery and one or more genres. It’s so much fun that mystery can be brought to so many! BloodStained Bliss by Elle Limpkin blended mystery with science fiction and created a world devoid of crime, leaving the main characters to stumble around. In My Attic by Lina Hansen, while also a cozy, delightfully mixed it with fantasy with witches living around a standing stone circle in England. The plant and the cat were really fun additions. The Angel of Bishopsgate by Eloise Reuben is set in 1840s London where mystery and historical blended together perfectly and made me think there’s a chance I might just enjoy historic fiction. Finally, there’s Rats in a Maze by Peter Bailey that went from gritty crime novel to fantasy and then turned straight into horror. It was almost like reading three different stories, but it somehow worked.
And then there’s the straight mysteries, the ones that took mystery and crime to heart. Someone Else’s Life by Kevin J. Simington was one that I adored. The reader follows a delightfully sarcastic PI who is constantly in over his head with his teenage daughter, and will do everything in his power to protect her, straight into a chilling end. Gate’s Bookstore by Jamila A. Stone (forthcoming) wasn’t exactly what I expected as it started strong, though I honestly wasn’t a fan of Diane Gates, and then turned into something that felt like the first half of a two-part crime drama series premier. I’m still feeling a little weird about this one, especially as it ends in a cliffhanger. The Cousins Crime by Manasi Patil (forthcoming) is a super quick read. Written by a teen in India about a teen detective in India, it’s a bit rough and relies a lot on willing suspension of disbelief, but presents a headstrong teen detective that has me reminiscing about my Nancy Drew days.
Now for the cozies. This year I was introduced to 3 lovely cozy series, all of them in the running to be my favorite this year. Kiss of Salt by Smita Bhattacharya took me straight to Goa, India with Darya Nandkarni in a style reminiscent of Agatha Christie. I loved how spunky Darya was and how she struggled against the traditional gender roles that exist for women. Murder at Mile Marker 18 by Denise Jaden took me back to the US, and the kitchen, with a delightfully fun, yet fairly straightforward, culinary cozy introducing Mallory Beck, widow of a mystery novelist. My favorite character was the cat, but I loved how Mallory and headstrong 15 year old Amber balanced each other. Still Death by Shauna Bickley took me to England as Lexie and her husband and daughters move away from London, leaving Lexie bored enough to stumble into a mystery.
But my absolute favorite mystery read of 2020?
The second book in the Lexie Wyatt mystery series, it’s the one I read first, and Shauna Bickley very graciously gifted me a copy of the first book, Still Death. Compared to the first book, Lexie felt like she was really hitting her stride with life in a quieter village and solving crimes. This one involved a group of friends surrounding Lexie’s newfound friend Helen, two of whom wind up dead. It was charming and cozy, and kind of at odds with the mystery genre, but I was so charmed by this novel that I can’t stop thinking about it and am kind of patiently waiting for the next book. There was just a perfectly charming and neat quality to it that oozed proper British while also presenting a twisty layered mystery that had me both wanting to race to the end to find out whodunit and wanting to slow down to savor it.
So, there you go, the 13 mysteries and thrillers I’ve read this past year. Some highs, some lows, some I questioned, some I’m so glad I read. Do you have a favorite mystery or thriller from this year?