Reviewers & Book Club Faves

Our two regular reviewers, Cathy Akers-Jordan and Vicki Kondelik, have shared their top 10 lists with us, and the book club chimes in on their favorite reads of the year as well.  Lots of good reading here!

Cathy:

Daughter of the Morning Star, Craig Johnson.  The new Longmire book is always the highlight of my mystery-reading year. The rez isn’t part of Walt Longmire’s jurisdiction, but when Tribal Police Chief Lolo Long recruits Walt and Henry to protect her niece, we learn the shocking statistics on the abuse and murder of Indian Women. Walt deals with a teenage basketball star while trying his best to keep her alive. read more

Best of 2021

There are two authors whose work is so consistently excellent I don’t add them to my best of lists anymore, but I can tell you that William Kent Krueger’s prequel to his Cork O’Connor series, Lightning Strike, is beautifully written, felt and told; and Louise Penny’s The Madness of Crowds, a sly look at devotees of a flawed charismatic leader, is a beautiful read.  Both writers have a quality of heart and spirit that give their books an extra something, and their main characters, Cork O’Connor and Armand Gamache, are beloved by readers. Soon to join these two are Elly Griffiths and Ann Cleeves, both of whom turned in stellar reads this year (see below).  I invite readers to cast their reading nets a bit wider and consider some of these other fine titles.  These are all books that stayed with me and left me thinking after I finished them. read more

Best of: History Mystery 2021

After we closed the store and my reading was slightly less proscribed by authors visiting or the latest new thing, I realized that one of the genres I truly love is historical mysteries. The range is so wide – in story telling style, in time period, in characters, and the armchair history lessons always, always add to my reading enjoyment.  The fact that the books are set in the past makes the detective rely much more on old fashioned, golden age style sleuthing methods, another attraction, as far as I’m concerned.  Thanks to Mystery Scene Magazine as well as my own reading, I find I read pretty widely in this subgenre.  Here are my 10 favorites this year. One of them I liked so much it’s on my all around top 10 list (stay tuned!) read more

Best of: Cozies 2021

I read many books in a year, but I still can’t claim an encyclopedic reading of the cozies that were published in 2021.  These delicious morsels of storytelling are reason for joy, as the storytellers, even though they include murders, are in general optimistic.  You like the characters in these books, and would love to be friends with them.  These are my favorites this year.  For a really deep dive, check out Dru Ann Love’s blog, Dru’s Book Musings, which tackles everything in the cozy universe.  All of these titles are available on our website.  read more

Cate Conte: Christmas Traditions

Author Cate Conte/Liz Mugavero joins us with this nostalgic look at Christmases of her childhood and Christmas as it appears in her Cat Cafe books.  Time to get in the holiday spirit…A Whisker of a Doubt will be published on December 1st.

Christmas, to many people, means the most wonderful time of the year. (Note: in my view Halloween takes that award, but I’ve always been a bit off-the-beaten-path…)

Regardless, I understand the appeal and I do love Christmas myself. Growing up, my family always made sure we had the best holiday season, full of traditions, family, and yes, gifts galore. I was very blessed. read more

Cozy round up 2020

“Cozies certainly provide solace from many of the dark edges of the actual world.” — Edith Maxwell in Mystery Scene

I read a lot, and I read lots of cozies, partly thanks to my column in Mystery Scene.  There I am restricted to reviewing mass market paperback originals, and I am generously showered with advance reading copies.  I sort through them by reading the premise and a bit of the beginning.  If the writing doesn’t hit me quite right, I skip that one, and check out another one.  And while I certainly read many, many cozies, I am in no way claiming to have read even a comprehensive number of the books in this sub genre published this year.  For that kind of scope, I highly recommend checking out Dru’s Book Musings, which is a comprehensive review blog of all things cozy.  In addition, Dru has guest posts from authors and publishes a guide to what’s coming out, sometimes weekly. read more

Best of 2019

I couldn’t keep it to 10 this year – can I ever?  My taste does tend toward the traditional and historical fiction side of things, so that’s mostly reflected here.  And a note: Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land, while not strictly a mystery, can definitely be enjoyed by his mystery loving fans.  Quite simply, it’s the best book of 2019 of any variety, and I hope everyone reads it.  I am looking to read it again myself.

There was lots to love this year!  Some long-awaited returns (S.J. Rozan), some debuts (Melanie Golding, Allison Montclair, Jess Montgomery), some trying a different format or series (Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths), and of course some solid entries in already great series (Benn, Bowen, Jones, Massey, Shaber). Lots of great, passionate, spectacular writing.  I love being a mystery reader! read more

Our Eleven Favorite Christmas Mysteries

Duck the Halls, Donna Andrews (2013). Skunks loose in the choir loft a few days before Christmas, a missing boa constrictor – do I need to say more?  Donna Andrews at her witty best, which is saying a LOT.

The 12 Clues of Christmas, Rhys Bowen (2012).  The body count is high as Lady Georgie hosts a holiday party in tiny Tiddleton-under-Lovey. While Bowen herself denies any resemblance to And Then There Were None, there are really far fewer people in Tiddleton by the end of the book than there were at the beginning – and the deaths are so creative! Delightfully, Bowen includes a guide of English Christmas traditions at the end. read more

Best of 2018

Black and White Ball, Loren D. Estleman, Deep into a now 80 book and counting career, and 27 in to his iconic Amos Walker series, what is Loren Estleman going to come up with that might be new? You might be surprised. In this novel Walker crosses paths with one of Estleman’s other characters, Peter Macklin, who hires Walker to look after his ex-wife. The meet up of these two classic characters delivers true energy and snap to this tight, well written novel. Paced perfectly, set in a gritty yet realistic Detroit, and sporting the truly lovely prose and incredible dialogue that are an Estleman trademark, this is a great addition to a classic series by the greatest private eye writer at work at the moment. read more

Best of 2017

As always I read so many great books, it was hard to choose just 10 (so I chose 11!). In their own category are William Kent Krueger and Louise Penny, both of whom write such consistently wonderful novels I started to feel they were beyond the top 10 list! Never the less both writers turned in beautiful books this year – Krueger’s Sulfur Springs takes Cork to Arizona on the hunt for his new wife’s son in a great novel that also takes a look at immigration issues and the border wall; Penny’s Glass Houses, also typically excellent, finds Gamache back as head of the Surete and investigating matters of conscience as well as a look at the drug problems rife in Western society at the moment (adding to a number of novels I read this year addressing the drug crisis). Both of these writers, with their beloved characters, gorgeous prose, and timely themes only continue to get better. But on to the list, which includes new writers as well as old friends. Happy reading! read more