Meike’s Top 10 Mystery Reads of 2020…So Far!

The first half of the year is in the books and Meike’s ready to unveil her ten favorite mystery titles of the year…so far! Read on to see what Meike’s been savoring and see how your personal list compares to hers.


9780525540670_648f9Long Bright River by Liz Moore 

Long Bright River is a genre-defying thriller that straddles literary fiction and crime fiction with a gripping police procedural that illuminates multiple aspects of the opioid crisis. Michaela “Mickey” Fitzpatrick is a Philly beat copy in the deteriorating Kensington neighborhood where she grew up, and where almost every resident now has a connection to the opioid epidemic. When a series of mysterious murders rocks the neighborhood, Mickey realizes she hasn’t seen her sister Kacey in several weeks. Kacey has been living on the streets, turning tricks to support her drug habit. Although the sisters are estranged, they were inseparable as children and Mickey has always felt responsible for her younger sister. As she hunts for both Kacey and the killer, Mickey is forced to come to terms with the long tail of trauma both girls experienced as children. 

 

9781641291095_f585dThat Left Turn at Albuquerque by Scott Phillips 

This darkly hilarious crime spree features a cast of characters who are all pretty terrible people, but you just can’t help but root for them. At the book’s heart is attorney Douglas Rigby—he’s facing bankruptcy as his latest shady deal falls apart, so he comes up with yet another swindle that will put him back on top. He enlists the help of his wife (who’s cheating on him with the local golf pro), his girlfriend (who happens to be the wife of his recently deceased business partner), an art forger, the embittered nurse of his last remaining client, and that client’s money-hungry nephew. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, to riotous results.

 

9780062838209_a4012Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson 

Any avid reader of crime fiction will love this homage to some of the most well-crafted mysteries of all time. Malcolm Kershaw is pretty much living my dream life—he’s the owner of The Old Devil’s Bookstore in Boston, with a capable staff that allows him the freedom to come and go as he pleases (and the financial security to live within walking distance to the store and enjoy the occasional excellent glass of wine). But the dream is threatened when an FBI agent comes calling—it seems there have been a series of murders that bear an unusual resemblance to a blog post Malcolm once wrote called “Eight Perfect Murders” and which extolled the virtues of some of literatures most unsolvable murders (from Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train to Christie’s ABC Murders, the best of the best are well-represented).

 

9781250154224_5fd08Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier 

Marin Machado led a charmed life until the day 16 months ago when her young son Sebastian (“Bash”) went missing. Marin was holding his hand in a crowded Christmas market; she only let go of his hand long enough to answer a call from her husband Derek, but suddenly Bash had vanished. Clues have dried up and the FBI have all but given up, so Marin hires a private investigator to resume the search. But what the PI finds isn’t Bash—it’s the younger woman named Kenzie that Derek is having an affair with. Determined not to lose her husband as well as her son, Marin enlists the help of her best friend Sal to fix the Kenzie problem—for good. Hillier is masterful at exploring the dark thoughts hidden in her characters’ psyches; this time around she ratchets up the tension and then blindsides the reader with a gut-punching twist.

 

9780062367686_93c1fA Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight 

Part domestic suspense, part legal thriller (the perfect “marriage,” if you will) this book examines just what compromises, secrets, and even lies are sometimes required to keep a marriage intact. Against her better judgment, attorney Lizzie Kitsakis agrees to defend her former law school classmate Zach Grayson when he’s accused of the brutal murder of his wife Amanda. She soon learns that Zach and Amanda’s seemingly perfect marriage was anything but, and along the way she’s forced to confront the cracks in her own marriage. Anyone who has ever even contemplated marriage will enjoy this exploration of what exactly a “good” marriage entails. Fans of Big Little Lies will love this one!

 

9780525658658_89f89The End of October by Lawrence Wright 

This one might not technically be crime fiction, but it crosses into thriller territory and couldn’t be more timely. A novel coronavirus breaks out in Asia and threatens to spread across the globe (sound familiar?), and epidemiologist Henry Parsons races to contain the virus before it decimates the human population. Wright’s eerily prescient imagining of how a pandemic might play out in the lives of ordinary people throughout the world is backed by extensive research— the reader will come away both highly entertained as well as better informed about the major historical event of our time. Wright is a masterful storyteller and his journalistic background lends a chilling realism to the novel.

 

9780062656384_adbbdThese Women by Ivy Pochoda 

Five very different women who live in the West Adams neighborhood of South LA are connected by a serial killer—but this is their story, not his. Told in a kaleidoscope of overlapping viewpoints, this beautiful story shines a light on women who are frequently overlooked and examines why their stories often don’t seem to matter to everyone. Pochoda imbues these women, who are often dismissed by society, with grace and dignity.

 

 

9781250206923_a07f3Hard Cash Valley by Brian Panowich 

This is the third installment in Panowich’s Southern Noir trilogy, set in the fictional north Georgia McFalls County. Ex-arson investigator Dane Kirby is pulled into an FBI investigation when a mutilated body is found in Jacksonville, Florida. His investigation soon circles around to his own backyard where he’s forced to confront some of the baddest Southern outlaws imaginable while at the same time coming to terms with a tragedy that threatens to destroy him.

 

 

9780525620785_a8a32Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

Naomi Taboada, a wealthy and glamorous young debutante, receives an urgent letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom. Naomi heads to her cousin’s new home, High Place, an isolated manor in the Mexican countryside. Her cousin’s new husband—an enigmatic and handsome Englishman—and his family are far from welcoming, and Naomi soon learns that High Place is rife with secrets and danger. Naomi is a fearless heroine facing an unimaginable horror, and the resulting chills are a delightful diversion.

 

9781633885523_2d883Turn to Stone by James Ziskin 

It’s late summer 1963 and “girl reporter” Ellie Stone has travelled to Italy to attend a symposium honoring her late father. She’s invited to spend the weekend at an elegant villa just outside Florence, and a possible German measles outbreak means no one can leave. But when the symposium organizer is found floating in the Arno and foul play is suspected, Ellie begins to wonder if any of her new friends could be capable of murder. If you spent your quarantine time anywhere but an Italian countryside villa well-stocked with delicious food and drink then you’ll want to read this wonderful novel to see what might have been… 


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Meike’s Top 10 Mystery Reads of 2019

2019 was a fantastic year for crime fiction and I constantly found myself rearranging my TBR pile in an attempt to read as many books as possible. Below are a few I particularly enjoyed—I hope you’ll check them out!


  1. The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

I’ve been a huge fan of Lutz’s work since The Spellman Files series so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one. New teacher Alex Witt arrives at a second tier boarding school and uncovers secrets that have the potential to destroy the school, but Alex has secrets of her own and an unknown enemy who may know a little too much about them. This is a twisted and timely female revenge fantasy, and a must-read for fans of MysteryPeople darling Megan Abbott.

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  1. Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Cha brings a unique perspective to racial conflicts in L.A. while spinning a propulsive noir mystery. In the wake of yet another policy shooting involving a black teenager, a shocking crime brings together two families—one African-America, the other Korean-American immigrants—who are forced to deal with a long-buried secret. An explosive and dark thriller that you’re going to see on just about every top 10 list this year!

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  1. Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Pampered Jewish housewife Maddie Schwartz walks out on her family, determined to create a life with meaning. She helps the police solve a murder which leads to a job with the afternoon newspaper. When the body of a young black woman is found floating in a park, Maddie seizes the opportunity to make a name for herself by reporting on the investigation. What I loved most about this one is the unique structure—the story is told from the shifting viewpoints of a variety of characters which only someone as gifted as Lippman can weave so seamlessly.

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  1. The Book Artist by Mark Pryor

The first book in Pryor’s Paris-based Hugo Marston series, The Bookseller, is perhaps the single title I find myself recommending more than any other—I love this series and want everyone to discover it! It features the straight-laced Texan Hugo—a former FBI profiler who now works as head of security for the US embassy in Paris—and his free-wheeling, hard-drinking, womanizing best fried Tom (who steps in to help out when less reputable crime-solving methods are necessary). In The Book Artist, bibliophile Hugo attends an art installation of sculptures created solely from rare books. When a museum guest is brutally murdered, Hugo steps in to help the police solve the murder—a task that gains urgency when they arrest someone whom Hugo feels quite certain is innocent. Meanwhile Tom has gotten himself into a difficult situation in Amsterdam, one that only Hugo can help resolve.

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  1. Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin

In the 1970’s, a teenage couple go on a 13-day crime spree which leaves a dozen victims dead before the killers die in a fire. But modern day true crime podcaster Quentin—whose own life was affected by the killings–has reason to believe that the female killer may have survived and sets out to find her. Meanwhile NYC film columnist Robin Diamond is dealing with her own issues—but when she gets a phone call from Quentin and then her home is broken into, she has to confront the fact that she may not know her mother as well as she thought. Gaylin weaves the various storylines, some of which are told in flashbacks and letters, brilliantly—we’re huge fans of hers over here at MysteryPeople and love getting her books into our customers’ hands.

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  1. My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

The lovely Millicent and her husband seem to have it all—a beautiful home in a prestigious gated community, successful careers, 2 great kids, and a marriage of over 15 years–but things have gotten a little stale in the bedroom. Most couples take a vacation or buy some “toys”—but this couple finds murder to be the best aphrodisiac. Any book that combines sex and murder is not to be missed!

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  1. Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Ware is a master of suspense and this latest is her thoroughly modern take on Henry James Turn of the Screw. London nanny Rowan Caine is looking for something completely different online when she stumbles across a dream job—private nanny to a family living in a luxurious Scottish Highlands manse. But the dream dissolves into a nightmare when one of the children dies and Rowan is arrested and charged with murder. Told in the form of letters Rowan writes to an attorney from prison, explaining the events leading up to the tragedy, Ware builds the suspense slowly and then ends with some gut-wrenching twists.

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  1. Last Woman Standing by Amy Gentry

Gentry wowed us with her debut, Good as Gone, and her sophomore effort is every bit as thrilling. Latina stand-up comic Dana Diaz is struggling to make it in a comedy scene dominated by men and rife with sexual harassment. One night she fends off a particularly vulgar heckler, and audience member Amanda offers to buy her a congratulatory drink. One drink leads to many as the women bond over shared stories of injustice and misogyny—and the evening ends with the women striking a kind of Strangers on a Train deal that has a distinct #MeToo flavor. Gentry shines a harsh light on the myriad inequalities women face every day while spinning a well-plotted tale that will have you ripping through the pages.

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  1. Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

We’re always so excited when our local Austin authors garner national attention and were thrilled when Baker’s adult debut (she’s published 5 YA novels) was chosen as the July pick for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club (side note—the September pick was The Secrets We Kept by Austin author Lara Prescott!) A group of female coworkers sue an executive in their Dallas athleisure firm for sexual harassment, but when he falls to his death from the 18th floor it isn’t immediately clear whether he jumped or was helped over the edge. This one is a timely examination of the many facets of workplace inequality explored in the context of a keep-you-up-past-your-bedtime thriller.

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  1. The Right Sort of Man by Alison Montclair

In post WWII London, 2 very different women—one an aristocratic war widow with a young son to support, the other a tough and impetuous young woman with considerable street smarts—start The Right Sort Marriage Bureau in an effort to establish some independence while also bringing joy to a town still suffering the ravages of war. But when their newest client is found murdered—and the man they matched her with is arrested and charged with her death—their new livelihood is threatened and the women launch their own investigation to clear their client and restore the reputation of their flegling enterprise. Each brings a unique set of skills to the task, but what I loved most about this book is the snappy dialogue—both smart and funny, it kept me tearing through the pages and now I’m completely in love with the characters and hope there’s more to come in what promises to be a fantastic series.

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Meike is a part-time bookseller and full-time mystery reader at BookPeople. You can find her top 10 titles in-store and online now.

And be sure to let us know what you thought of this list! Is there anything you’d like to add to add? Did you discover something new?

What Meike Read Over the Summer

The outside temps have made it clear that summer is seemingly going to stay FOREVER, and what’s the best way to chill in the summer heat? You know it: flop down under the nearest ceiling fan and grab a book—one so riveting that you simply cannot leave that lovely breeze. Below are a few I’ve enjoyed recently—you have plenty of time to check them out before sweater weather!


The Swallows by Lisa Lutz:  I’ve been a huge fan of Lutz’s work since The Spellman Files series so I was thrilled that she had a new book out and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one. It’s set in a second-tier boarding school and begins when new teacher9781984818232_b9eeb Alex Witt arrives and starts to uncover secrets that have the potential to destroy the school. But Alex has secrets of her own, and an unknown enemy who may know a little too much about them. I can’t say much more without revealing spoilers—suffice to say that this completely original thriller is almost impossible to summarize and not to be missed. It’s definitely going to be in my top 10 for 2019!

The Whisper Network by Chandler Baker: Austin author Chandler Baker’s adult debut (she’s published 5 YA novels) was chosen as the July pick for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club. It’s a thriller about a group of female coworkers who sue a male executive in their Dallas firm for sexual harassment.  When he falls to his death from the 18th floor it’s not clear whether he’s committed suicide—or perhaps been helped on his way.  A timely examination of the myriad facets of workplace inequality explored in the context of a thriller.

9780062390011_29ce7Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman: After last year’s Sunburn, I felt like my summer wouldn’t be complete without a Lippman thriller—and this one didn’t disappoint. In 1966 Baltimore, pampered Jewish housewife “Maddie” Schwartz walks out on her husband, determined to carve out a life with meaning. She helps the police solve a murder, which leads to a job at the afternoon newspaper. When the body of a young black woman is found floating in a park, Maddie sees an opportunity to make a name for herself by reporting on the investigation. What I loved most about this one was the unique structure—the story is told from the shifting viewpoints of a number of characters but the narrative is seamlessly woven

Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin:  Any true crime podcast addicts out there? This is one you’ll love! True crime podcaster Quentin Garrison examines a killing spree that took place more than 40 years ago—one to which he has a personal connection. The teenage killers were believed to have died in a fire, but Quentin has reason to believe that April Cooper may be alive. Shortly after he contacts the woman he believes may be April, she is almost killed in a brutal home invasion. While she lies in a coma, her daughter is forced to confront how little she really knows about her mother’s past—a realization that makes her question who her mother really is. Could she have been that teenage girl who was at least partially responsible for the murders of a dozen victims?

Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware: Ware is a master of suspense, and this is her modern9781501188770_a23de take on Henry James’ Turn of the Screw. London nanny Rowan Caine is looking for something completely different online when she stumbles across the job of her dreams—private nanny to a family living in a luxurious Scottish Highlands manse. But the dream quickly becomes a nightmare when one of the children dies and Rowan is arrested for murder. The story is told in the form of letters Rowan writes to an attorney as she explains the events leading up to the tragedy. The suspense builds slowly and then ends with some gut-wrenching twists.

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena: This book starts with a bang when a brutal murder takes place in the first chapter. The story then shifts pace when we learn about the idyllic suburb in upstate New York where the victim lived.  All is not quite as it seems and the tension builds slowly as Lapena gradually uncovers hidden secrets—it appears any number of people may have had a reason to kill the victim. The slow burn builds to a satisfyingly explosive conclusion.

9780451491725_8d9cbMy Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing: The lovely Millicent and her husband seem to have it all—a beautiful home in a prestigious gated community; successful careers (he’s the country club tennis pro and she’s a realtor); 2 great kids; a marriage of over 15 years. But things have gotten a little stale in the bedroom. Normal people take a vacation or buy sex toys—this couple finds that getting away with murder is the best aphrodisiac. Any book that combines sex and murder is not to be missed!

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager: This was one of the most anticipated books of the summer and it certainly lives up to the hype! New Yorker Jules Larsen is desperate for money and a place to live, and she thinks she’s found the perfect solution—an apartment-sitting gig at the exclusive Bartholomew. All she has to do is live in a vacant apartment for 3 months and pick up a $12,000 paycheck. Sound too good to be true? I think you know it is. The plot is super twisty and you won’t see the end coming in a million years.’


Meike is a part-time bookseller and event staffer at BookPeople with a penchant for thrilling reads. Her picks and many more like them can be found at BookPeople in-store and online now!