As much as I like to think I enjoy mysteries and thrillers, I think the fact that I’ve only reviewed 11 all year (I read 12, but won’t get around to reviewing it until January) kind of says something. Overall, I found myself underwhelmed by most of them and sorely disappointed in some, so it was not a good year for me in terms of mysteries and thrillers. Or maybe I’m just growing out of them for now.
I read mostly thrillers, but with some cozies and some traditional mysteries thrown in. If this were next year, this would be so easy as #19 in my favorite mystery series comes out in January (Honey Roasted by Cleo Coyle, #19 in the Coffeehouse Mystery series), but it’s not and I can’t help feeling like I have a sorely lacking pool to choose from. So, what mystery/thriller read did somehow turn out to be my favorite this year?
Since it’s the holiday season, I’ll start with the holiday thrillers. Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda is set during the 4th of July holiday. I was really excited about it as it involves a released convicted murderer back into the neighborhood, straight into the arms of the neighbors who helped convict her. What I thought could have been a tense thriller surrounding the truth of the past and how the neighborhood is going to deal with it when someone turns up dead was just too predictable with little tension. The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski is set during a Halloween season where the past and present are rushing into a headlong crash. It’s eerie and fun and got me in the Halloween spirit, but it was also predictable and had lackluster characters I now struggle to remember.
One thriller I did enjoy was The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives by Kristin Miller. Set in an exclusive neighborhood, it draws together three women, each of whom is wealthy and beautiful, but their lives are full of secrets. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of one of the women, the story around the other two really kept my attention and I couldn’t wait to see how it all unfolded. Then there was Of Magpies and Men by Ode Ray that felt like a mix of family fiction and mystery. I want to hesitate on calling it a mystery as it was so faintly woven in during most of the novel that I was actually a bit confused when it hit full force at the end. Still, I couldn’t see how it could have been the story it was without that mystery to kick it off.
And then there was Tell No Lies by Allison Brennan. This is the second in the Quinn and Costa series. I keep rating these books around 3 cups of tea, and yet I keep wanting to read them. The mysteries don’t really grab my attention, but I like they’ve been set in different locations so far. There’s some bureaucracy involved that I just kind of find exhausting, but I really, really like Quinn and Costa and love how they work together, so I think I’ll probably keep reading this series. Murder at the Church Picnic and Murder at the Town Hall by Denise Jaden are also part of a series. They are the second and third, respectively, in a cozy, culinary mystery series that involves food, a grumpy cat, and a sweet and slow romance. These books are quick reads and just really hit the spot for me.
This year, I’ve really found myself enjoying books with parent-child relationships, so of course I had to find a couple of thriller with parents and children. The Wonder Test by Michelle Richmond involved a widow and her teen son as they relocate and discover the high school is weirdly obsessed with something called the Wonder Test. I really liked the relationship between mother and son, but everything else just failed to shine for me. On the other hand, there’s Where I Left Her by Amber Garza. Both of her thrillers have involved mothers and children and this one surrounded a single mother and her teen daughter who develops a fast and close relationship with a newly arrived girl. It brings up the mother’s past and focuses on how it impacts the mother-daughter relationship. I enjoyed just about everything about this one and felt fully invested in that relationship as a mother of a future teen girl.
Then there were the, well, odd ones out. Eastover Treasures by Dawn Brotherton is literally a treasure hunt. There’s some fun history thrown in as well and I wish there had been more of it, but it was still quite different from what I had expected. It turned out to be a lot of fun, but I still wish more danger had been thrown in, or more history. The other was basically a locked room mystery set on a space ship. Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson is both science fiction and a mystery. I’d say they’re closely tied together, but the mystery edges out sci-fi a bit for me, even if it didn’t hit me until halfway through. Once I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it, and I think I quite liked it was a locked room mystery. The AI were wonderful, and I wish the rest of the characters were just as good.
Which mystery/thriller turned out to be my favorite?
It has to be a toss up between Jaden’s cozies and Garza’s sophomore novel since I’m loving reading thrillers involving mothers and what they’ll go through for their children. But I think I have to go with Jaden’s series because her quick, light mysteries full of food, a grumpy cat, and a sweet slow blooming romance just hit the spot this year. They continue to entertain me and I fall in love with the characters every time. I also have a hard time passing up a mystery with a cat, so Jaden’s series essentially checks off all the boxes for me.