THE MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP PRESENTS THE BEST MYSTERY STORIES OF THE YEAR

2021

Editor Child, series editor Otto Penzler, and their colleague Michele Slung team up to offer 20 gems from 2021 in the first volume of a new series.

Many of this year’s best follow a familiar road: pitting a rugged male hero, often with military street cred, against the bad guys. Doug Allyn’s “30 and Out” features an Afghan War vet who hunts a colleague’s killer; Jim Allyn’s ex-Army police veteran worries about being teamed with an unreliable partner in “Things That Follow.” But a surprising number include less traditional crime busters. A young man entranced with the Irish language is the gentle hero of Andrew Welsh-Huggins’ “The Path I Took.” Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, a familiar female gumshoe, makes a welcome appearance in “Love & Other Crimes” along with the female proprietor of Wilde Investigations in Janice Law’s “The Client.” Moms get into the act in Alison Gaylin’s “The Gift” and Tom Mead’s “Heatwave.” So do new friends, in Martin Edwards’ “The Locked Cabin,” and frenemies, in Jacqueline Freimor’s “That Which Is True.” And in a startling tribute to the power of sisterhood, Joseph S. Walker shows how quickly female strangers can bond if the need is urgent in “Etta at the End of the World.” Women take starring roles on the wrong side of the law in John Floyd’s “Biloxi Bound” and Joyce Carol Oates’ “Parole Hearing, California Institution for Women, Chino, CA." Child’s selections seem especially appropriate for 2021, a year that promises change on so many fronts. The only exception is the unexplained bonus reprint, Ambrose Bierce’s “My Favorite Murder,” a bitter tale of a man who revels in the sadistic murder of his uncle. That one belongs to 2020.

Diverse and diverting.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61316-267-5

Page Count: 451

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A satisfying, if predictable, thriller that will please fans of police procedurals.

THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE

When health care aide Bettina Holte is found drained of blood in Copenhagen’s oldest fountain, little does Investigator Jeppe Kørner know that he has a budding serial killer on his hands.

The very next day, another body is found, similarly drained. Under increasing pressure from his superintendent, Kørner quickly deduces that the murder weapon was a scarificator, a strange bloodletting device. He also learns that both victims once worked at Butterfly House, a short-lived residential home for teens with psychiatric illnesses. The home was closed after a young girl died by suicide and a social worker was found drowned. An expert at narrative sleight of hand, Engberg strews the investigational field with multiple suspects, each shadowy enough to maintain our suspicions. Perhaps Bo Ramsgaard, the teen's grieving father, is worth a closer look. Or perhaps one of the young people could hold a grudge against the staff, which included the ambitious psychiatrist Peter Demant and nurse Trine Bremen, who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Yet former patient Isak Brügger, diagnosed with schizophrenia, is still under nearly 24-hour surveillance at the Bispebjerg Hospital, as Simon Hartvig, his social worker, can attest. And former patient Marie Birch is now living in an insular countercultural community. Meanwhile, Kørner himself is conflicted about his relationship with Detective Sara Saidani: Is he ready to try again so soon after his divorce? And Kørner’s partner, Anette Werner, is on maternity leave but can’t resist getting involved as well. It’s her work that collides with Kørner’s for a dramatic final confrontation.

A satisfying, if predictable, thriller that will please fans of police procedurals.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982127-60-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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