Book reviews of mysteries, thrillers, and other irresistible reads.
A KNIFE IN THE FOG and DUST AND SHADOW are both sensational thrillers. The two books have a few things in common, including exceptional historical research, an investigative trio, and a satisfying conclusion, yet each offers an original take on Victorian...read more
Fall is here. Our New Year’s resolutions petered out long ago and the holidays, with overspending and family drama, loom on the horizon. In this season between what-might-have-been and what-will-overwhelm-us-soon, dive into one of these life-changing books. You'll get...read more
THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES, the first Department Q novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, has toppled Jo Nesbo from the top of my Nordic Noir favorites list. And I didn’t even know I wanted to go to Denmark. Some series take a few books before all the pieces are...read more
FOOLS AND MORTALS by Bernard Cornwell sets the standard for historical fiction with a touch of suspense and a healthy dose of Shakespeare. But before I gush about how good the book is, let me say that Cornwell is one of my favorite authors....read more
RED SPARROW by Jason Matthews is a gripping Cold War espionage thriller in the style of John le Carré’s thrillers. Except longer. SPARROW starts with a heart-pounding and authentic scene of spy tradecraft in Moscow. Nathaniel “Nate” Nash is...read more
BLUE LIGHT YOKOHAMA by Nicolás Obregón is a dense and layered police procedural set in contemporary Japan. The title is that of a song which keeps playing in the mind of the main character; like the song, the book is one I won’t soon forget because of...read more
THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain is a noir classic from 1934. I stumbled on a copy in a used bookstore and realized I’d never read it. I didn’t know what I’d been missing all these years. Frank Chambers is a drifter, roaming...read more
I’ve never been to South Africa and the only thing I know about the Afrikaans language is that it is derived from Dutch. But in the Tannie Maria mysteries, RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER and THE SATANIC MECHANIC, author Sally Andrew weaves a spell...read more
Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Architecture, canals, and history make it a prime setting for a mystery. Two favorite authors, Donna Leon and Martin Cruz Smith have new books set in Venice that take you on two very different...read more
CLAWS OF THE CAT is one of those books you wish you’d written, but grudgingly know you’d never come up with the premise. Related: Author to Author with Susan Spann Author Susan Spann takes us to imperial Japan in 1565. The Jesuits, in the form of Portuguese priest...read more
In A MADRAS MIASMA, New Zealand author Brian Stoddart takes us to India in 1920 with an extraordinary sense of place and time. India is on the brink of explosion and the murder mystery is another lit fuse on the powder keg. Related: Author to Author with Brian...read more
THE TRESPASSER by Tana French is the 6th novel in the chronicles of the fictional Dublin Murder Squad. Each is narrated by a different member of the squad, whose private life is somehow linked to—and tragically impacted by—the central crime. When in Dublin last year,...read more
When mystery author Robert B. Parker passed away, I mourned the end of the Spenser and Jesse Stone mystery series, as well as his Westerns featuring the enigmatic Virgil Cole. Sunny Randall, not so much, as I never quite connected with the female PI and her annoying...read more
For those mystery lovers who reveled in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, his new stand-alone novel Midnight Sun will be a bit of a surprise. Midnight Sun is easier on the blood pressure than Harry, with a sympathetic protagonist and the wooded setting of Norway’s remote...read more
In The Blackhouse by Peter May, the setting is the remote, windy, and rainswept Hebrides islands off Scotland’s western coast. The murder is gruesome and mimics a recent killing in Edinburgh being investigated by police detective Fin McLeod. Fin’s young son has just...read more
A DEATH IN THE FAMILY by Michael Stanley is a deeply authentic visit to Botswana, hosted by Detective David “Kubu” Bengu of the country’s Criminal Investigation Division. The novel stands alone but if you like international culture wrapped up in a mystery, I recommend...read more
I write mysteries and thrillers and love to read them, too. In this book review, I look at JIHADI APPRENTICE by David Bruns and J.R. Olson, a very modern thriller with an insider’s ring of authenticity. With a compelling scenario and characters at cross purposes,...read more
Carl Engel is hardly the typical hero of a mystery series but he's the main character in BANGKOK RULES by Harlan Wolff. The mostly drunk Brit has been in Bangkok for 30 years, surviving as a fixer who plays both sides of every local intrigue. He is well known to both...read more
Like spy and military thrillers? Books based on current events? Polished prose? Great plots? WEAPONS OF MASS DECEPTION is for you. WEAPONS is a high caliber thriller, using a very plausible Iraq War scenario as its core: Saddam’s sons move the country’s nuclear...read more
Based on a true family story, THE RAGMAN MURDERS is clearly a labor of love. The novel tells the story of two immigrant families, the Amatos and the Tassones, and the circumstances that bring them into conflict within Hartford CT’s teeming immigrant neighborhoods in...read more
If you want to understand Mexican culture, DEVOTED TO DEATH must be in your personal library. It is a detailed examination of Santa Muerte, Mexico’s most famous folk saint. Santa Muerte is regarded as the personification of death; a active deity with amazing powers. I...read more
The Orphan Uprising is the riveting last book in the Orphan Trilogy by the father-and-son writing duo of Lance and James Morcan from New Zealand. I hear they are making a movie based on the books and if so, it ought to be a blockbuster. The first two books, The Ninth...read more
Smokescreen by Khaled Talib is a thriller for today’s audience. It’s got a politically driven plot based on current events, an everyman hero, and enough double-dealing and deranged killers to keep the reader flipping pages and skipping meals. What makes Smokescreen...read more
The Stephanie Plum books are like Pringle’s potato chips—I can’t eat just one despite the fact I know they’ll be full of empty calories. Maybe it’s the salt. Whatever. Pass the can. Top Secret Twenty One is the latest in the Stephanie Plum bounty hunter series by...read more
The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker is an unexpected trip to 1890’s Italy, when Garibaldi’s unification of the country was still tenuous and Italy’s city-states retained their strong regional rivalries and flavors. At the same time, the study of the occult was...read more
Up for a trip to southern France, where mirth, mayhem, and Champagne rule? C'est vraiment drole! Translation: keep reading. I not only write mysteries but I love reading them, too. My favorites are the ones that take me to new places and this week it's a trip to...read more
Not only do I write a mystery series, but I read them, too. My favorite mysteries are the ones that take me to new places. This week's book review is of THE CORONER's LUNCH by Colin Cotterill. Following the advice of a fellow book clubber, I downloaded it and was...read more
Ready to dive into the Mystery Ahead?
Every other Sunday, the Mystery Ahead newsletter offers my book news plus a review of a mystery I think you'll love.
As your gift for subscribing, I'll send you the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library!
Exclusive "The Angler" novella and Who's Who guide, plus "The Beast" prequel previously published by The Huffington Post, delivered fresh to your email inbox