The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Mystery& Detective

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger

Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Krueger effortlessly weaves lilting language, thought-provoking issues, and an extremely compelling mystery into a historical, small-town setting. A young boy follows in his father’s footsteps as he searches for “crumbs” to help solve a crime and discovers some much larger truths along the way. The characters are unforgettable, the story is suspenseful, and the writing is beautiful. Especially for readers who enjoy murder mysteries, coming of age stories, Native American stories, and well-written fiction. It is almost Southern Gothic, but maybe not quite dark or southern enough. Some of the theological threads remind me a bit of Marilynne Robinson as well.

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger, (List Price: 27, Atria Books, 9781982128685, August 2021)

Reviewed by Angela Rawls, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

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Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

After Pearl Harbor, Aki Ito and her family, American citizens living in Los Angeles, are sent to Manzanar, an internment camp. Upon release, they are relocated to Chicago — they are not allowed to return to their home in Los Angeles. Rose, Aki’s older sister, is released first, and many months later, Aki and her parents are released. Upon arriving in Chicago, they learn that Rose has died in a subway train accident and further information reveals that she committed suicide. Aki and her parents are filled with grief and shame. Aki, who idolized Rose, knows that Rose would never kill herself, so she begins to investigate Rose’s life in Chicago. As Aki turns over every last stone, she learns important information about herself, her sister, her new city, and her place in this country. This powerful historical mystery is well written and filled with information about the lives of Japanese Americans during WWII. Highly recommended.

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara, (List Price: 27.95, Soho Crime, 9781641292498, August, 2021)

Reviewed by Mary Patterson, The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, Virginia

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False Witness by Karin Slaughter

Leigh has a steady life. She works as a lawyer and has a great daughter. Even her divorce is amiable and she still adores her Ex. But when she’s pulled in to work on a rape case with a super tight timeline, her carefully crafted facade threatens to crumble. Slaughter continues to weave a carefully crafted, edge-of-your-seat thriller in this new standalone novel. The twists are surprising and the tension is high!

False Witness by Karin Slaughter, (List Price: 28.99, William Morrow, 9780062858092, July 2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

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City Problems by Steve Goble

Ed Runyan is an ex-NYPD detective who left the big apple for the relative quiet of rural Ohio after a particularly gruesome case involving the brutal murder of a young woman. Now it seems his past has caught up with him when he finds himself in a case of another missing young woman on his own turf in the quiet fields of Ohio. The girl, Megan Beemer was reported missing from the Columbus area and was last seen at a party where a high school band from Ed’s area was performing. Between the band and the local kids who were or may have been at the same event, and with the help of a woman detective from Columbus, Ed has to unfold the story of who was at the party and how they might have interacted with Megan. When Megan’s body is found in a local creek, Ed has to struggle with his past and the demons that have stayed with him from the earlier murder in NY which has been the center of his nightmares for years. Ed Runyon is a damaged character, but one who shows his human side in his empathy and depth of commitment to solve this crime and find justice for the victim. We can only hope we’ll see more of Ed Runyon. This one was a great read!

City Problems by Steve Goble, (List Price: 26.95, Oceanview Publishing, 9781608094431, July 2021)

Reviewed by Brent Bunnell, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

S.E Crosby is the real deal. He is rejuvenating the mystery scene in a way not seen since Elmore Leonard during his prime. And his new novel is the perfect example of how. This story of two ex-cons, fathers, seeking answers to the murders of their married sons has it all. Fast-paced and relentless, it is an excellent look at our culture wars through the eyes of a parent who can’t understand his child’s choices. Super smart, incredibly entertaining, and all-around satisfying this is a book no one should skip!

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby (List Price: $26.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250252708, 7/6/2021)

Reviewed by Pete Mock, McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina

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My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black by Terry Roberts

Creating a “page-turner” has always seemed to me to require something beyond writing. An author may be an excellent wordsmith, have brilliant ideas, and yet never achieve the deep understanding of human psychology or the precise timing and rhythm that is needed to hook a reader. My Mistress’ Eyes Are Raven Black is a true page-turner. It took me only two sittings to course through its pages.

Author Terry Roberts sets his propulsive historical murder mystery on Ellis Island in 1920, amid American nativism and White Christian supremacy culture. On the surface is the disappearance of a young white Irish woman with connections in high places, connections who want her found. Stephen Robbins, from Hot Springs, NC, is contracted by a nameless man to solve the woman’s disappearance. It seems that she is not the only person to have gone missing from Island 3, the location of the isolation hospital for immigrants who arrive sick or pregnant at Ellis Island, presenting a potentially contagious situation. At the hospital, Robbins meets Lucy Paul, an undercover nurse who is investigating the high rates of patient death and disappearance. Roberts creates a spookily atmospheric setting in the creepy and mysterious hospital, and Robbins and Paul make a gutsy detective duo. But Roberts offers more than a compelling atmosphere.

My Mistress’ Eyes explores what brings humans to predicate superiority based on genetic expression. What is behind the belief that this assumed superiority excuses the right to commit violence? Roberts intersperses original texts from “scholars” of the time who espoused the superiority of White Christian Americans and proclaimed the dangers of letting immigrants into the United States. These lend credibility to the story, yet never detract from Roberts’ gift for spinning a wonderful yarn-filled humor, romance, intrigue, passion–and murder.

My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black by Terry Roberts, (List Price: 31.99, Turner, 9781684426959, July 2021)

Reviewed by Erin Fowler, Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

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The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear

It’s 1941, and Britain continues to be bombed by Nazi Germany. This is good news for fans of Maisie Dobbs, as she truly shines when she is thrown into a stressful wartime situation. This is a tricky mystery with a satisfying conclusion… and also features some welcome progress in Maisie’s social life.

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear (List Price: $27.99, Harper, 9780062868022, 3/23/2021)

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St Simons Island, Georgia

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Smoke by Joe Ide

Dodson’s back. Back again. Dodson’s back. Tell a friend. Or two. Or ten. My apologies to Eminem and to you, dear reader, for the possible ear worm I may have just planted but, THANK YOU Joe Ide! I’ve not laughed that loud, while reading, in some time. Truth be told, my wife tired quickly of me barging into her reading time to say, “Honey, wait until you have hear this bit”. Yeah, too much coffee and great writing so that to me. I’ve enjoyed all of the IQ series and, if I’m being honest, I was fairly sure this would be another solid run of the series but, probably not exceptional. Wrong. Just. Plain. Wrong. I love where Joe is taking us. The depth of the characters continues to develop at a wicked pace. The plot lines are becoming even more ferocious. And IQ keeps getting… smarter? Yep. And the ending? YIKES. Book six Mr. Ide? Bring. It. ON!

Smoke by Joe Ide (List Price: $28, Mulholland Books, 9780316531061, 2/23/2021)

Reviewed by Berkley McDaniel, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Lila has moved back home and is living with her Filipino family after a bad breakup. She’s also come back to help with the family’s restaurant. But when the local fool critic has never met a dish about which he had something nice to say passes out in his food at the restaurant and later dies, Lila’s the number one suspect. I love cozies and this was a nice, new addition to the genre with some Filipino flair! I loved the characters and look forward to reading more!

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (List Price: $16, Berkley, 9780593201671, 5/4/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia

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An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch

Another entertaining addition to one of Righton Books’ favorite mystery series. Charles Lenox travels to the United States and becomes swept up in high society Newport, Rhode Island, where a beautiful young woman has died a suspicious death.

An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch (List Price: $27.99, Minotaur Books, 9781250767134, February 2021)

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St. Simons Island, Georgia

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Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley

I loved this short but intense detective novel. For me, it doesn’t get better than Leonid McGill for a P.I. protagonist. Morally ambiguous, wily and cunning, he is instantly likable and someone I hope to see in future Mosley books.

Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (List price: $24.00, Mulholland Books, January 2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

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Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

When I want a good book, but don’t want to do a search for a book I might like, I grab the latest Lisa Gardner book. I know I will find a great plot, characters and superb writing. This book just confirms my premise. Frankie leads an all-new cast of characters, and the novel is fast-paced look at a darker side of life. Most of us are fortunate to never be the victim of a violent crime, and your loved one disappearing is a particularly brutal example. When the police have been unsuccessful and hope seems lost, Frankie arrives. She is not a retired cop, private detective, well-funded or connected. She is a broke currently sober addict on the run from the demons of her past. She is flawed, relentless and brilliant in her determination. Another fantastic production from Lisa. It is a standalone so don’t delay!

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner (List Price: $27, Dutton, 9781524745042, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Jackie Willey, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd

Christina Dodd writes complex plots with characters who are complicated and pushed to limits that are hard to endure. Evelyn is no different; a job that should keep her going as a young teen on her own turns out to be the worst mistake of her life. In prison for a murder she did not commit and on her own she has no hope for the future. An escape leaves her living under an alias at a remote camp in Alaska. During the winter she has nothing but time, and she uses it to plot her vengeance and look into other crimes that involve people she meets. The complexity of human nature and capacity for evil is captured in this suspenseful and well written book. Perfect for her fans and any suspense fan who appreciates great characters.

Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd (List Price: $17.99, HQN, 9781335080820, 12/29/2020)

Reviewed by Jackie Willey, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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Sleep Well, My Lady by Kwei Quartey

The mysterious death of fashion mogul Lady Araba has stunned the nation of Ghana, and stumped its police force. When justice has not been found after almost a year, the victim’s aunt hires private investigators to get to the bottom of the crime. The investigation that follows is interesting and complex, following a bright new PI, Emma Djan. I can’t wait for follow up stories from Quartey.

Sleep Well, My Lady by Kwei Quartey (List Price: $27.95, Soho Crime, 9781641292078, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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The War Widow by Tara Moss

The War Widow was an intriguing mystery, an interesting and informative look at post war Australia in 1946 and an overall totally delightful read. Ms. Billie Walker has returned home after being a war correspondent in Europe to take over the Private Inquiry Agency of her late father. She is a fun, elegant, feisty and determined character who investigates the “old-fashioned” way: no internet, no cell phones, no data bases. The book is filled with intrigue, nasty criminals, beautiful fashions and lots of daring moves by Ms. Walker. I cannot wait to see what kind of trouble Ms. Walker finds herself in next.

The War Widow by Tara Moss (List Price: $26, Dutton, 9780593182659, 12/29/2020)

Reviewed by Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

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The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

Read This Next A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Paraic O’Donnell’s The House on Vesper Sands is a whip-smart Victorian murder mystery featuring a remarkable cast of characters. Young girls are going missing and Inspector Cutter’s on the case with the help of a fake police officer (Cambridge drop out Gideon Bliss) and a young female journalist determined to write more than society pages. The disappearances seem to have a spiritual element to them and the first death scene is puzzling and compelling. O’Donnell’s 1893 London is so brilliantly written you’ll find yourself shivering instinctively.

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell (List Price: $26.95, Tin House Books, 9781951142247, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Picnic In the Ruins by Todd Robert Petersen

What a great away to start the new year! Take a dollop of Hiaasen, add some Hillerman, grind it all up with a Craig Child pestle (my favorite naturalist writer and historian), and you end up with a great metaphysical mishmash of cultures, places, of history and who does it belong too, all under the wide open Southwestern skies and the stoic remains of a people long since disappeared. I can’t wait to share this utterly entertaining novel with people!

Picnic In the Ruins by Todd Robert Petersen (List Price: $16.95, Counterpoint, 9781640093225, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Pete Mock, McIntyre’s Fine Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina

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The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Agatha Christie went missing for 11 days in 1926, and this novel tells Christie’s story, building the events of her life and her disappearance to a crescendo right at the end of the book. This is an amazing story of one woman who subjugated herself to the benefit of her husband and the detriment of herself and her daughter, but eventually stood up for herself to the benefit of all who read her novels. I loved this book.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict (List Price: $26.99, Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781492682721, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell
Tin House, January

A sooty and shadow-filled Victorian London acts as a sentient backdrop to the sinister, dark, clever (and somehow even hilarious at times), detective mystery that is The House on Vesper Sands. As a reader, there were just so many sensory details and perfect moments of tension that made the world feel all the more real, and the discovery all the more haunting.

– Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL

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Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas

It’s a new start for this family, after experiencing a near tragedy. They’ve now moved from London to Wales and have remodeled an old rectory, making it into a guesthouse. But the old rectory has secrets, and the village has secrets, and this little family has secrets. And where there are secrets, there are lies. And when a death occurs in the B&B, the police are not satisfied that it’s an accident. Too many suspects crowd this B&B and no one knows who to trust. A captivating, but complex plot, this thriller will grab you on the first page and keep you reading until its last, shocking page. It’s fast-paced, with lots of twists and turns, a bit dark at times, and full of suspense. And you’ll never expect this surprise ending!!

Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas (List price: $26.99, Harper, 9780063037410, November 2020), recommended by Nancy Humphreys, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

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The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

A sooty and shadow-filled Victorian London acts as a sentient backdrop to the sinister, dark, clever (and somehow even hilarious at times), detective mystery that is The House on Vesper Sands. As a reader, there were just so many sensory details and perfect moments of tension that made the world feel all the more real, and the discovery all the more haunting.

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell (List Price: $26.95, Tin House Books, 9781951142247, January, 2021).

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL

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The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Who killed Emma? The perfect, popular, and beautiful cheerleader? The suspects at her high school are like every other high school–except one of them is the killer. Page-turning and completely funny! Nothing is as it seems which keeps adding up to a book you will share with your nemeses and friends!

The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 12/1/2020)
Recommended by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Another great mystery-within-a mystery from Horowitz! A real page turner, clever and entertaining with twists. The novel within the novel was a surprise, and made it even harder to try to guess “who done it.” A perfect distraction read, engrossing in all the best ways.

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
(List Price: $28.99, Harper, 11/10/2020)
Recommended by Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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The Keeper by Jessica Moor

Katie Straw worked at a women’s shelter. She was really good at her job because seemed to understand how the residents were feeling as they hide out from, and attempted to recover from their abusive situations. Then Katie is found dead, an apparent suicide, or so the police believe, until they discover that she was NOT who she claimed to be. Told in the voice of “then” and “now” Katie tells her story leading up to her death, and the lead police detective tells his as the investigation continues. This debut novel by Jessica Moor is a challenging read at times as the varying themes of abuse are brought to light and you come to fear that Katie’s killer may just get away with murder!

The Keeper by Jessica Moor (List price: $16.00, Penguin Books), recommended by Sunrise Bookshop, High Point, NC.

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