The Mysterious Bookshop

Our Booksellers' Top 5 Favorite Mysteries of 2021


Otto's Top 5

When Christmas Comes by Andrew Klavan. An idyllic little town, where crime is virtually unknown, is shocked when Jennifer Dean, the beloved librarian, is viciously murdered by her boyfriend, Travis Blake. The brutal assault is witnessed by several people, and the killer quickly confesses. His lawyer calls her former boyfriend and asks him to prove that Blake is innocent.

The Left-Handed Twin by Thomas Perry. Jane Whitefield, a modern Seneca Indian, has an extraordinarily difficult occupation: she helps people disappear. Sara Broughton testified against her boyfriend in a murder trial and a bribed jury set him free. He seeks vengeance and the Russian mob helps him but the person they really want is Jane.

Observations by Gaslight by Lyndsay Faye. Six novellas, each narrated by a different person from the Sherlock Holmes canon: Irene Adler, who will always be THE woman to Holmes; Mrs. Hudson, his landlady; Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, one of the few police officers that Holmes respects; Henry Wiggins, the most familiar of the Baker Street Irregulars; and others.

Basil’s War by Stephen Hunter. The World War II adventures of Basil St. Florian, a swashbuckling spy in service to the queen who parachutes into occupied France to retrieve a manuscript that Alan Turing believes might be the key to victory for the Allies. Reading this thriller is like watching a black-and-white 1940s war movie.

The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021, edited by Lee Child and me. Just a fabulous collection of mystery/crime stories written by such luminaries as James Lee Burke, Sara Paretsky, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, David Morrell, Sue Grafton, and equally brilliant tales by lesser known authors.

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Tom's Top 5

A Man Named Doll by Jonathan Ames.

The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt.

Widespread Panic by James Ellroy.

City on the Edge by David Swinson.

Heaven's a Lie by Wallace Stroby.

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Ryan's Top 5

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby. Cosby's first mystery, Blacktop Wasteland, was the best book I read in 2020 and somehow, someway, Cosby managed to write an even better book in 2021. Razorblade Tears is a fast-paced, heart-wrenching thriller that confirms Cosby's status as the best thriller writer working today.

Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton. There's no better sensation in the bookselling world than being blown away by a debut novel and Thornton's Pickard County Atlas did exactly that. This gritty rural noir—the hot subgenre of crime fiction—has it all and Thornton's superb writing will leave you lightheaded.

Blood Grove by Walter Mosley. Is it strange to jump into a long-running crime series with the 15th entry, 31 years after the author and character's debut? Perhaps. But Mosley is the pro of pros, Easy Rawlins is an unparalleled character, and Blood Grove is a masterclass in how to keep a series fresh, exciting, and necessary.

The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee. When I read Mukherjee's debut, A Rising Man, I remember begging the stars that this series featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee would stay...good. You know what I mean, we've all been there. I'm ecstatic to say that Mukherjee and this series have never been better.

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia. If you were to wander into The Mysterious Bookshop and ask me for a recommendation for a mystery that's "different" or "overlooked" or guaranteed to "hook you,"— I'd hand you Afia's Dead Dead Girls. Set during the Harlem Renaissance and featuring a beyond-compare heroine, this series debut is hands-down my favorite book I read this year.

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Charles's Top 5

The Fabulous Clipjoint by Frederic Brown.

Rhode Island Red by Charlotte Carter.

The Listening House by Mabel Seeley.

The N'Gustro Affair by Jean-Patrick Manchette.

The Conjure-Man Dies by Rudolph Fisher.

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Mike's Top 5

How To Find Your Way in the Dark by Derek B. Miller. Sheldon Horowitz lost his mother a year ago, in 1937, to a horrific fire at a circus, then the following year his father died in a very suspicious car accident. Decamping to live with his uncle and his cousins in Hartford, he will never forget and vows to get revenge on the killer(s). One thing, though—how is he going to do that when he is only twelve years old?

Shoot the Moonlight Out by William BoyleA widower quietly living with his teenaged daughter reads Con Ed meters during the day—and acts as a vigilante for hire in his spare time. Teenaged Bobby is drifting along, working off the books for a low-level scammer and hoping no one finds out his dark secret. Then Bobby meets the girl of his dreams, and conjures a romantic plan that will enable him and his inamorata to live happily ever after. Then it all goes horribly wrong after the lives of Bobby and the widower are inexorably drawn together.

Thief of Souls by Brian KlingborgThe first in what will hopefully be a long series, Inspector Lu Fei is assigned a shocking murder case in the backwater precinct where he has been posted, despite having graduated with top honors from China’s most prestigious police academy. His superior, an ambitious man, wants to pin the crime on the first available suspect and make it go away, while making himself look good in the process. Lu Fei is nothing if not diligent, however, and in delving deeper into the case, runs afoul of the police brass, the Party, and local business owners. And that’s just for starters, for there are skeletons buried here that no one wants to dig up.

The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom LinMing Tsu, a Chinese orphan, is recruited as an enforcer for a crime boss in California at the time of the coming of the transcontinental railroad. But he didn’t reckon on falling in love, and when rivals kidnap his lady, Ming Tsu bolts from his conscripted position on the railroad gang and goes on a murderous rampage to set things right. The finale explodes right off the page.

Made Men by Glenn Kenny and Woke Up This Morning by Steve Schirripa & Michael ImperioliA two-fer about fictionalized Mob types, Made Men takes a deep dive into the making of the film Goodfellas, with recent discussions and insights from nearly everyone involved in the production; while Woke Up This Morning is a detailed oral history of Goodfellas’ second cousin, the noted television series The Sopranos. The latter has a fair amount of verisimilitude, as the co-authors were cast members and thus had unprecedented access.

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Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

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