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?

MysteryPeople Top Ten Novels of 2013

As usual, I cheated a bit putting together this list and doubled up on books that share the same theme. Also know Mark Pryor’s The Crypt Thief and Duane Swierzcynski’s Point & Shoot could have easily made this list. Also if I had gotten a chance to read some books that time just didn’t permit, like Urban Waite’s Carrion Birds and Adrian McGinty’s I Hear The Sirens In The Streets and Rules of The Wolfe by James Carlos Blake, I probably would have tried to squeeze them in, as well.

1. The Double by George Pelecanos

Pelecanos takes the simple set up of his retrieval specialist Spero Lucas recovering a stolen painting from a gigolo conman and creates a hard boiled novel rich in character dialogue, social awareness, and good straight up action scenes. Only problem is that I can’t wait for the third Spero novel.

2. The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell

In fewer than 180 pages this book covers more depth than some authors’ massive operas. Through time shifts and chapters that serve as mini-character biographies, Woodrell builds a literary mosaic about a mysterious explosion and the devastating effect it has on one town.

3. Little Green by Walter Mosely & Onion Street by Reed Farrel Coleman

Two of the greatest private eye heroes, Easy Rawlins and Moe Pager, walked the mean streets of the late ’60s this year. Read back to back, you get a look at the period from different age, racial, and coastal perspectives with two well defined heroes each in a beatifully crafted mystery.

4. A Serpents’ Tooth by Craig Johnson

This game changing book in the Walt Longmire series has the Wyoming sheriff dealing with a well armed religious cult, the CIA, a unique crime, and his most lethal nemesis. Johnson’s humor and humanity finds a way to both highlight and offset the story’s dark undercurrent.

5. Donnybrook by Frank Bill

This rough and tumble tale of different red neck ruffians and their pursuers heading for a bare knuckles competition takes hard boiled writing to new and sometimes disturbing heights. Bill keeps his characters grounded no matter how wild the story gets and gives us some involving blow-by-blow fight scenes.

6. Evil In All It’s Disguises by Hilary Davidson

Everything comes to a head in the third installment of this series featuring travel writer Lily Moore. When looking into the disappearance of a fellow writer in Acapulco, Lily finds herself in a creepy hotel and a plot involving her ex-boyfreind. Davidson blends noir, the traditional thriller, and her edgy sensibility, putting her into a class all her own.

7. The Return by Michael Gruber

Gruber’s South of the border revenge tale proves to have more depth than you might expect. A wealthy book editor and his slightly unhinged buddy from Vietnam travel to Mexico with a camper full of guns to settle a mysterious score. Gruber’s rich prose style and sense of place create a book that lingers.

8. The Rake by Scott Phillips

This year’s book with the most laughs follows an American soap opera actor in Paris, trying to broker a film deal and juggle several lovers, one of whom is a possible financier who’s an arms dealer. Phillips is one of the best tour guides for bad behavior.

9. Shoot The Woman First by Wallace Stroby

A heist novel with humanity. After a double cross from robbing a drug dealer, Crissa Stone tries to get her dead partner’s share to his family with a bunch of bad guys on her trail, including Burke, a crooked cop who proves to be one of this year’s best villains. Stroby finds a way to give entertaining action and dialogue while showing the toll a life of crime takes.

10. Ratlines by Stuart Neville

In Neville’s dark, James Ellroy-style historical noir, an investigator is trapped between different factions relating to the Nazis who found asylum in Ireland. The book is a hard punch to the gut that leaves you reeling.

TWO HIGHLY HONORABLE MENTIONS

These authors weren’t on the list list because their books didn’t quite fit the category of 2013 novel, yet they are well worth reading.

Nightmare Range by Martin Limon

A collection of all the stories featuring Sueno and Bascome, two CID cops in ’70s Korea. Great procedural story telling with a strong sense of mood and place. Read as a collection you get the sense of futility our heroes face in doing their job and the right thing.

Paying For It & Gutted by Tony Black

Finally an American publisher (kudos to NewPulp Press) brought Scotland’s prince of darkness to bookstores in this country. Black’s Gus Dury, a fired journalist hack turned half-assed PI, is a great damaged anti-hero and perfect guide through Edinburgh’s meaner streets.