Top Mystery Books

Solving Mysteries with Daphne Du Maurier

I don’t know about you but when I was a teenager I loved reading books by Daphne Du Maurier. Her books always had a bit of romance, a sense of intrigue and her heroine’s were someone I could relate to. So when I saw that mystery writer Joanna Challis had written a mystery with Daphne Du Maurier as the main character, I just knew I had to check this one out.

The book is called “Peril at Somner House” and even the name has the ring of the old Daphne Du Maurier books. What I hadn’t known until I read the book is that Du Maurier had a bit of a rep when she was writing as someone who had a knack for getting herself into a situation right up to her elbows. In the book she is with her sister Angela, also a writer, and we meet them as they are heading out to an island in the Cornwall area that was a setting for all the DuMaurier books. Angela has been invited to visit with Lord and Lady Trevelyn, who are friends of hers. The island enchants Daphne, who is here a young woman just beginning her writing career and very obviously enamored of the romantic remoteness of the island.

All of that changes when their host is discovered dead, murdered, the next day and his wife is found to have taken up a lover that makes her a suspect in the murder. But the story is complicated when unexpected house guests in the form of a Major Browning and a fellow visitor to the house, Sir Marcus, stir the pot of romance for Daphne. Soon she is embroiled in the mystery of finding out just who could have killed their host, and why. There are almost too many possibilities! But the one possibility no one thought of turns out to be the answer that only Daphne is capable of discovering. That is if she can survive the discovery.

The Litigators by John Grisham

We all get to enjoy another great lawyer’s mystery from the master of them, John Grisham. This time he is sharing with us the story of the partners at Finley & Figg—all two of them—who often refer to themselves as “a boutique law firm.” Of course, they mean a boutique, as in chic, selective, and prosperous. And that is half the fun, because they are, of course, none of these things. What they are is a two-bit operation always in search of their big break, ambulance chasers who have been in the trenches much too long making way too little. Their specialties, so to speak, are quickie divorces and DUIs, with the occasional jackpot of an actual car wreck thrown in. After twenty plus years together, Oscar Finley and Wally Figg bicker like an old married couple but somehow continue to scratch out a half-decent living from their seedy bungalow offices in southwest Chicago.

And then change comes their way. More accurately, it stumbles in. David Zinc, a young but already burned-out attorney, walks away from his fast-track career at a fancy downtown firm, goes on a serious bender, and finds himself literally at the doorstep of our boutique firm. Once David sobers up and comes to grips with the fact that he’s suddenly unemployed, any job—even one with Finley & Figg—looks okay to him.

With their new associate on board, F&F is ready to tackle a really big case, a case that could make the partners rich without requiring them to actually practice much law. An extremely popular drug, Krayoxx, the number one cholesterol reducer for the dangerously overweight, produced by Varrick Labs, a giant pharmaceutical company with annual sales of $25 billion, has recently come under fire after several patients taking it have suffered heart attacks. Wally smells money.

A little online research confirms Wally’s suspicions—a huge plaintiffs’ firm in Florida is putting together a class action suit against Varrick. All Finley & Figg has to do is find a handful of people who have had heart attacks while taking Krayoxx, convince them to become clients, join the class action, and ride along to fame and fortune. With any luck, they won’t even have to enter a courtroom!

It almost seems too good to be true. And it is.

Portrait in Death by J. D. Robb

Portrait in Death a mystery thriller novel is from the famous New York Times Bestselling author J. D. Robb. You might know her as Nora Roberts… and so did I. I have known Nora Roberts as a brilliant romance novelist and was quite skeptical about her work in the mystery books genre. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. She hasn’t sold over 170 New York Times Bestselling books for no reason; she is a fantastic story teller no matter what genre she writes in.

The novel is part of the ‘In Death’ series of mysteries that follows the cases of NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas. Eve is looking forward to Summerset’s three week long vacation. Summerset is her wonderful billionaire husband’s butler, and they just don’t get along very well. Life couldn’t get better for Eve – with Summerset gone and a great marriage to enjoy, life was perfect… till things start falling apart.

First Summerset breaks his leg in an unfortunate accident and has to postpone his vacation, leaving him grumpy and recuperating at home, then comes something more sinister. A young college student has been found murdered and worst pictures of her both alive and dead have been sent to the local news station. The killer also attached a note with them talking ecstatically about the victim’s light and purity.

As Eve and her faithful helper Delia Peabody try to find out who would want to kill a young, friendly and bright college student, Roarke discovers a shocking secret about his past. This recent revelation challenges everything he’s known and believed about himself and his roots. As he struggles to come to terms with the secret about his past, he ends up testing every ounce of understanding in Eve.

The characters were well developed and it is truly amusing to read the relationships they have with each other. Delia telling Eve more than she wants to know about her love life with the hotshot e-detective McNabb is an example. The book’s sure got me hooked to the series; now I can’t wait to start reading from book one. The plot is intriguing and the sex scenes are hot!

Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree

Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree is the sixteenth book in the Aunt Dimity series from fiction writer Nancy Atherton. The novel is as thrilling and exciting to read as the very first. In fact, the mysteries only seem to be getting better and so do the titles!

The series explores the unique relationship shared by protagonist Lori Shepherd and her late Aunt Dimity. Lori is an amateur detective who always seems to find wisdom and guidance in the printed words of Aunt Dimity.

The plot begins with Lori’s father-in-law moving to Finch, a beautiful serene little village in the English Cotswolds, popularly known as the "Heart of England". William Sr. (the father-in-law) moves there hoping to purchase an estate and raise sheep on its grounds – his idea of a quiet life. But all is not so quiet and serene as it seems in Finch.

William Sr. manages to buy a deteriorating estate and with the help of home renovators, plumbers and builders the land and the house seem to be coming along really well except for a one minor problem – the servants of the estate seem to acting mighty odd! To top that, the discovery of a painting of a Family Tree in the attic reveals startling secrets.

In a sub plot Mrs. Sally Pyne, a local villager, turns to Lori and William for help. Her trip to Mexico turns out to be all that she expected but here’s the problem. She meets a charming gentleman there and in a comedy of errors leads him to believe she is a lady where she comes from – all with her own charming estate, servants and the whole gamut. In reality, she is the manager of the village’s tearoom. Now the mysterious gentleman is coming to visit her and she doesn’t want to be made a laughingstock in the village.

Lori and William are also engaged in a case dealing with false identity and fraud involving one from Finch, but when things get a little too strange at Fairworth – strange visitors, peculiar sounds, and shifting furniture – Lori turns to her favorite Aunt Dimity for guidance. Soon Lori devices a clever plan to help Sally Pyne and at the same time she discovers the seemingly splendid estate’s murky past. Have the original owners not moved out yet?

Hollywood Hills by Joseph Wambaugh

A Review of Hollywood Hills

Joseph Wambaugh a former police officer is famously known for his Hollywood series of books of which, Hollywood Hills is the fourth. The series was initially intended to be a trilogy. When asked how the fourth book came about he said: “think the Hollywood books became so much fun that I had to interview 50 more cops and write a fourth. But now I am finished with Hollywood Station. I think.”

Wambaugh has now taken to full time writing and is mostly known for books like the Onion Field and The New Centurions. Wambaugh was also given the Grand Master title of the Mystery Writers of America (an award given to writers for their lifetime of work) in 2004 for his published work.

In Hollywood Hills, Wambaugh talks about the division of Los Angeles police department dedicated to Hollywood. This gives him plenty of room to satirize (which he does merrily) the many celebrities found there, the film industry and many related elements. The book revolves around an art theft which eventually reveals a murder mystery.

Art dealer Nigel Wickland schemes to profit from a wealthy Widow Brueger’s impending   trip to Tuscany while the other characters – surfer cops Floatsam and Jetsam, aspiring actor Hollywood Nate – are toiling through their everyday affairs to maintain order. In the subsequent saga, as cops follow trails, the identity of a person responsible for two deaths is unveiled.

The story is told from the perspective of every character in the book. Apart from the many new characters, there are several characters from his previous books in the series that are revisited. So needless to say, the book will leave its readers reeling from all the information and its fast pace. Although the book does not delve into developing each character, there is enough background information on each character that gives us a glimpse into why each of the characters do the things they do. Wambaugh skillfully ties up all the subplots and loose ends and gives us a satirical soft mystery in a city of endless hope and aspirations.

Wambaugh, when asked if he ever misses being a police officer – now that writing has taken up all his time – said: “As the police sergeant known as the Oracle says in Hollywood Station: doing good police work is the most fun you will ever have in your life. Of course I miss it. What I do not miss is being constantly criticized by cop haters in the media and in politics. Yes, my success was so great in the 1970s that it ended my career.” 

Good People by Marcus Sarkey

This book opens with a scene in a nightclub in which a drug deal is interrupted by four thieves. The thieves end up getting away with $400,000 in drugs and cash but in the process they wind up killing an innocent victim. A double-cross occurs and one of the thieves winds up escaping with all of the money.

The story then introduces us to Anna and Tom Reed who own a duplex in Chicago. They're heavily in debt trying to cover their mortgage and have maxed out their credit cards in an attempt to have a child (IVF treatments are expensive). In an attempt to obtain some much needed income they recently rented out the bottom part of their house to a tenant who's unfriendly, secretive, and turns out to be the member of the gang who had run away with all the loot from the club robbery.

An accidental overdose of drugs kills the tenant and leads to a fire. This brings the Reeds downstairs who eventually stumble upon packets of money stashed away in various places in the tenant's apartment. With the tenant dead and gone they decide to keep the hidden money and put their lives back together. The chain of events that result forms the basis for the rest of the book: the couple is now in the crosshairs of not only the remaining armed robbers but also the drug dealer whose drugs were stolen from the club. Additionally the police suspect they know more about the robbery then they are letting on.

The book follows at a breakneck speed towards the conclusion; turn the pages with great anticipation until you finish the book. "Good People" is a "Good Read" that mystery readers will certainly enjoy.

Rough Weather by Robert B. Parker

Robert B. Parker has proved yet again with Rough Weather that he is a force to reckon with. The narrative is full of tension, the characters are crisp and the dialogue is razor sharp.

The Story:

The main character, Spenser, gets asked by a wealthy client to accompany her to her daughter's wedding. The reason? She's recently divorced and wants Spenser to act as a combination escort and bodyguard. Since the wedding will take place on Tashtego Island (a lush and beautiful private island), his expenses will be covered, and his lady love Susan will accompany him, he agrees to the gig. However, being the great private eye that he is, he wonders if there's more to the story than his client is revealing.

Sure enough, during the wedding he spots Rugar, his old nemesis. Rugar, known as "The Gray Man", is an ex-CIA hit man and a cold hearted killer who has crossed Spenser's path twice before. The Gray Man almost killed Spenser during their first encounter so Spenser knows he has to keep his guard up around him. Spenser wonders why his old arch enemy is in attendance at the wedding. Is he there to kill Spenser?

The Gray Man does indeed have a plan in mind but it doesn't involve Spenser. He's there for the bride. And he's not going to let anyone get in his way.

It's here that the action begins. The Gray Man successfully kidnaps the bride but ends up killing several people in his attempts to escape the island. Spenser is unable to stop him because he's primarily concerned with protecting Susan. However, he's soon back on track and on the trail of The Gray Man.

Parker is a master at action-filled narrative and fast paced dialogue and Rough Weather is no exception. Although the reader might be able to solve the mystery before the book's conclusion, Parker's writing style is so captivating that it doesn't matter. I was hooked on this book from the very start and I'm certain that other fans of mystery books will love this as well.

The Messenger

The Messenger by Jan Burke

The Messenger is a wonderful paranormal thriller by Jan Burke that is sure to grip you in the strong jaws of its narrative right from the very beginning. The pace of the narrative is steady even though the settings switch from the Napoleon era war zone, to a deep sea rescue, and to present day America. The three main characters are written in a believable manner that's not easy to accomplish given their supernatural abilities. The Messenger is a strong and appreciable horror tale with just the right ingredients.

The Story:

During the battle of Waterloo, Tyler Hawthorne, a 20-something English officer, is lethally wounded. Lord Adrian attempts to save him by giving him a magical ring. With a few stipulations of course. Although the ring grants immortality to its bearer the wearer must spend eternity providing comfort to those nearing death. Tyler is also given Shade, a cemetery dog, for protection.

Almost 2 centuries later, a salvage diver finds Lord Adrian’s remains on a vessel believed to have sunk around 1815. Once on shore, Adrian comes back to life and asks the diver to assist him in looking for Tyler. He's able to track Tyler to LA where he's continuing his mission to assist those nearing death. For the last 200 years this has been Tyler's existence. However there is one bright spot - Tyler has finally fallen in love. His love interest is Amanda, an heiress who was a survivor in a horrible accident that killed her family but left her with the ability to see ghosts. Though she is suffering from guilt for having survived, she has begun to feel attracted to Tyler as well. Unfortunately, Lord Adrian has an evil agenda in mind and could cause trouble for Tyler, Amanda and Shade.

Best known for her mystery series featuring Irene Kelly, a southern California reporter, The Messenger is a new venture for Jan Burke. It is a very well crafted supernatural story where the living and the dead come together to avoid an ultimate evil. Though different, this book is a promising departure from Burke’s usual style. The book has enough paranormal references for those looking for fantasy and mystery. Though a bit elaborate at times, the love story is good too. I can't think of a better way to spend a cozy evening alone.

Exit Music by Ian Rankin

While reading the last book in the Rebus series it's obvious that the character of John Rebus has developed dramatically over 20 years spanning 17 books. It is hard to believe that the Rebus has officially been retired and that he won't be revived in one way in future books. And although we've shadowed Rebus’s career in the police department over the last 20 years with great interest we've also seen Ian Rankin grow as an author and storyteller. From the underdeveloped mysteries in Hide & Seek and Strip Jack, to the latter novels with thick plots and complex characters, Rankin has grown along with the series.

The Story:

In Exit Music a Russian poet from Edinburgh is found brutally murdered in a street ‘you rather not walk alone at night’. The murder looks like a mugging which went wrong; at the same time an important delegation of Russian businessmen is visiting town wanting to do business with Scotland. Bankers and politicians are looking to solve this quickly. However, as they begin looking closely, Rebus and DS Siobhan Clarke, his colleague, find out that it is more than just a mugging! An equally brutal second murder follows.

In the meantime a brutal assault on a gangster ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty puts Rebus on the suspect list – has he gone too far this time? Just a few days from the end of his career, will he even make it to retirement?

Ian Rankin’s prominent presence in the world of crime fiction is indisputable. His mysteries are laced with subtle themes and the books often address social issues.  The protagonist of his series, Rebus remains one of the most realistic and well rounded characters in crime fiction and mystery.  As such Rankin is perhaps the modern torchbearer for the modern British troubled cop who feels misunderstood, underpaid and underappreciated.
Though Exit Music is not the best book in the series it does a great job bringing Rebus' story to a close.  Exit Music is a well written ending to a beautiful series.  Here's hoping Rankin will provide something new for Rebus in the future.  

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

Bad Luck and Trouble is Lee Child’s 11th book in the Reacher series and it is no doubt the best in many ways. To begin with, the effortless minimalism in the book is more effective than it has ever been in any of his previous books. Unlike his previous works, in this book Child uses a taut language completely avoiding long sentences, minimizing use of commas and italics and refraining from any weather talk.

The daunting Paul Reacher is a wanderer who travels lightly and is known to simply carry his toothbrush, some funds and his passport with him. As a matter of fact, when some thugs trash his room in a motel, the only material harm they did was to throw his toothbrush on the floor crushing it.

Lee Child's signature use of mathematical logic in the book is depicted in the scene where Reacher is at an ATM in Oregon and finds a deposit has been made to his account. This leads him to think about certain number combinations which in turn allows him to decodes a message telling him that Neagley, a tough no-nonsense woman, is looking for him. Yes, it's a bit convoluted but Child does a great job making this seem logical.

When Reacher finds Neagley, she tells him about one of their former comrades being thrown out of a helicopter. Her friend was on a team of army investigators and now the team wants to reassemble as a unit once again. They want to find out what happened and take revenge for their comrade’s loss. Soon Paul and Neagley's investigations lead them to the widow of the dead man and their son. Once again Reacher’s logic draws everybody’s attention towards small incidents which later play a role in solving the mystery.

Reacher is probably the most loved character ever with his bizarre interest in codes, cube roots, probabilities and factions. Some fans may question the change in writing style but I found the book to be an entertaining read.

Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell

Patricia Cornwell has proven herself in forensics and suspense once again with this entertaining and enthralling book. The Book of the Dead is the 15th book in the Kay Scarpetta series and has won the BCA Crime Thriller of the Year! The book brings all the familiar characters back again and after a couple of forgettable books, this book has surely done wonders for her fans.

Dr. Scarpetta has relocated to Charleston in South Carolina with an independent forensics lab and morgue. She takes referrals from the law agencies that cannot provide the level of research or lack appropriate funding. Her niece, Lucy, handles security for her; Benton is around too but working in Boston;  Dr. Scarpetta’s loyal secretary Rose has followed her to South Carolina as well and so has Pete Marino, her associate and former cop friend! Everybody is back again including characters like Dr. Marilyn Self who envies Kay.

Dr. Marilyn Self was an over-the top television psychiatrist who blames Kay for an unfavorable court decision. She seems to be following Dr. Scarpetta wherever she goes in this case.  She invites Drew Martin on her show; turns out she's receiving letters from a killer.  However Kay and her friends are exasperated as to her Dr. Self’s intentions.

With the change in pace of life in South Carolina, Kay however, enters a new fight all together – a fight with the local politicians and someone specifically who is trying to sabotage and run her out of town. These series of events begin even before the deaths and murders actually begin in the city. We soon find out about a young man from an affluent family who has jumped off a water tower; a ritual murder of a woman is discovered in her multimillion beach home; and the body of an abused boy is found in a mars.  Though Kay has faced many brutal crimes before, never have they been as terrifying as these.

The two dimensional characters in the book will be a bit confusing for new readers as character development is a bit lacking in this book as compared to the early books in the series. By the end of the book, even the regular fans may think that some critical pages and scenes from the story are missing.

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

The Scarecrow sees Michael Connelly return to form and this must be his sharpest novel since ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’. The book moves from one subplot to the other but returns to the newspaper world with affection. The book visits the crime plot like a routine laying more emphasis on the press rather than on the investigation. Soon after there is a heightened suspense as the story unfolds towards the works of the scarecrow and his sinister internet prowess! However the book again falls into a familiar line and diminishes towards the end with the ending of the book.

The Scarecrow involves serial sex crimes where women are abducted, assaulted and stuffed in the trunks of cars – and this is not even the scary part of the story! These seem like routine crimes when compared to the sinister Scarecrow.

The main character of the story is the reporter Jack McEvoy who was at his prime in ‘The Poet’ (1996). Back then Jack was working with the Rocky Mountain News and now he works with The Los Angeles Times – the death of the former newspaper and the slow end of the latter provides quite an ominous backdrop to the story.

Jack is Connelly’s perfect anti hero with ex wives, authority problems and a conscience. Once laid off from the paper in the beginning of the book itself, Jack begins tracking down the Scarecrow on his own with some good reporter experience and legwork! The book is largely about Jack getting it right but the comic relief with a young protégé, Angela Cook who has all the newfangled journalism in her veins is fun. Jack refers to her as the Mojo –“a mobile journalist nimbly able to file from the field by any electronic means.”

Just like in ‘The Poet’, computer technology and its insidious powers is the menace and threat. The source of this evil internet mayhem is an underground desert bunker called the Farm. The narrative makes it so frighteningly plausible with the hacking, spying, identity theft and other similar privacy violations.

The main plot of the book – the Farm is where the Scarecrow presides over hordes of data storage equipment. Wesley Carver is a threat engineer who specializes in data collocation; but he has been getting involved in a lot of side hobbies without his boss’s knowledge. He spies on other employees, moves through chat rooms to target his next victim and begins to mess with Jack once he figures that The Times has been investigating into the trunk murders.

The story seems a bit incomplete but fans of the series may really like it.  Nonetheless, the next installment "Nine Dragons" is due to hit the streets in 5 months.

The Cold Room by J.T. Ellison

Title: The Cold Room

Author: J.T. Ellison

Release Date: March 2010

Pages: 416 pages

Genre: Mystery

Best Book Quote: Listen to me, little Gavin. You have absolutely no right to cross the line. NO RIGHT! Haven’t I given you everything you’ve always dreamed of? Friends, a home for your basest desires, a family, the benefit of my vast knowledge?

From the first page of The Cold Room to the very last page J.T. Ellison takes you on a fast paced ride. We are quickly drawn into Taylor Jackson’s investigation of The Conductor. Well-defined characters are brought to life as they hunt for the necrosadistic killer. A tantalizing mixture of mystery, intrigue, macabre and romance! Bravo to J.T. Ellison…..Bravo.

Homicide detective Taylor Jackson is called to a bazaar murder scene. With the victim staged to replicate a famous painting, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, Detective Jackson’s fiancé, quickly sees an eerie resemblance to the staging of murder victims in Europe. They need help catching this necrosadistic killer. As much help as they can get!

The Conductor captures his victim, places her in a glass coffin , starves her to death slowly and then…..fulfills his desires. Has the Conductor taken his killing international? Homicide Detective Jackson, FBI profiler Dr. Baldwin and New Scotland Yard detective Memphis Highsmythe are determined to put an end to these heinous murders. They must act quickly before the murderer stages a new victim for them. But will Memphis’ attraction to Taylor get in the way? As the second victim in Nashville is found they realize that the Conductor is killing faster! Will they be fast enough to stop him before he murders again? With a break in the case and the help of the FBI’s resources they may just have a chance. A chance to put an end to the Conductor’s masterpieces!

And then the final showdown……will they be able to sort out the acts, the forensics, the clues? Will they be able to determine if they have the real killer? They will all be put to the test!


By Leslie Parrish

Reviewed by Lisa

“Fade to Black” is one in the series of the “Black CATs” novels by Leslie Parrish featuring the newest Cyber-Crime Unit of the FBI, the Cyber Action Team, aka CAT.  Followers of Ms. Parrish’s Black CATs will recognize the leader of the team, Supervisory Special Agent Wyatt Blackstone and other members of the  team, including Special Agent Dean Taggart, as they join forces with a small town sheriff to catch a diabolical serial killer bold enough to carry out his murders, live, on his Internet site – Satan’s Playground!!

Ms. Parrish brings something for everyone in this book, making it interesting & fun for the techie lovers, romance readers, and mystery fans.  With every twist & turn, she leaves surprises that one doesn’t expect.  The love story is nearly instantaneous, yet believable as she fleshes out her lead characters to make them seem as though they are truly people you can visualize meeting. 

The mystery grabs you from the first page and never lets go.  The intrigue will keep you turning pages as the suspect list grows and grows.  The very idea of the plot will leave you disconnecting your mini-cams  and other hardware from your computers!

Though “Fade to Black” is part of a series, it can stand alone as Ms. Parrish writes the series surrounding all of the Black CATs, and the only constant is Supervisory Special Agent Wyatt Blackstone – still a bit of a mystery man himself. 

The ending is as unique a surprise as I’ve read in years.  Without revealing too much, I can only say that it’s one of the most creative, yet logical, that I’ve come across.  Fans of romance and mystery that like a challenge with all things technical will love this book!   The Black CATs novels will make a great addition to a collection.       

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resspenser profile image

resspenser 6 years ago from South Carolina

Wow! It is late so I am going to have to bookmark this and come back later! I am a RBP fan as you might guess from my handle but you have given me some other authors to check out. Scarecrow is on the short list.

Thanks for the great hub and the info.

jagerfoods profile image

jagerfoods 5 years ago from South Carolina, USA

This is so cool. I've read all of Michael Connelly's books except the newest one. I have one Lee Child book and will follow the Reacher series all the way through. The rest of the books on your list are getting but on my wish list. Thanks for the leads. Keep blogging.

Fantasy Girl 5 years ago

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Glad you enjoy the hub!

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