Carole E. Barrowman’s Favorite 2021 Books Include Mystery Novels
Carole E. Barrowman
I like to think I’m a good person, but give me a serial killer novel or a book about brutal murders, and I’ll lick my lips and pour a good chianti. Unsurprisingly, when I revisited the mysteries and thrillers I enjoyed the most this year, with a few exceptions, they leaned towards the darker of its kind. So… in the spirit of the season, raise your glass and read a good book. Cheers!
“The velvet was the night” (Del Rey), by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
Set during the violence of the dirty war that ravaged Mexico’s precarious democracy in the 1970s, this slyly feminist pulp novel is a compelling read. Yes, Moreno-Garcia’s story of a lone secretary inadvertently caught up in a political conspiracy is a violent one, but it has an impressive narrative bluster and characters radiating style and substance.
“Madame Mars” (Liveright), by Virginia Feito.
Like Mrs. Dalloway of Virginia Woolf, Mrs. March throws a party. Like Ms. Dalloway, Ms. March’s identity is shattered. Feito’s evil narrator is one of the best I’ve come across in ages and presents Ms. March to readers as if she were a specimen under glass. The narrator probes Ms. March’s psyche with stylus precision. Every page of these stellar beginnings spills blood.
“When the ghosts come home” (Tomorrow), by Wiley Cash.
This gripping novel takes place over four days in 1984 in a small town in South Carolina. A plane crashes in the middle of the night on a deserted runway. A murdered black man is found nearby. The plane was emptied of its cargo. The repercussions of this event reverberate through the narrow community in shocking (and not so shocking) ways. And the end. Like the plane in the night. You won’t see it coming.
“The man with the puzzle” (Hanover Square Press), by Nadine Matheson.
Matheson’s novel is a gripping, macabre, and accomplished police case that takes place in London. Not only is Matheson’s serial killer a fully fleshed out character (sorry, not sorry), Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley is as worthy an adversary for any serial killer as Clarice Starling or Tony Hill.
“Razor Blade Tears” (Flatiron), by SA Cosby.
Furious action and two incredible main characters propel this revenge tale. Ike, who is black, and Buddy, who is white, mourn the loss of their gay sons, who got married and murdered. Cosby’s cinematic tale brilliantly balances Ike and Buddy’s brutality with their heart-wrenching moments of parental regret.
“The last house on the unnecessary street” (Macmillan), by Catriona neighborhood.
Stephen King describes this book as a “shredder of nerves.” He’s not wrong. If you’ve enjoyed the level of fear in “The Haunting of Hill House” and agree with a narrator throwing you off balance, then step into Needless Street’s last spooky house where its three occupants are locked inside. . May be.
“The Hollywood Spy” (Bantam), by Susan Elia MacNeal.
The extraordinary British spy Maggie Hope is in Hollywood. Los Angeles in 1943 is still “an idea, not a real city”. Elia MacNeal braids Hollywood glamor with the chilling reality of the rise of American Nazis and the blatant racism that follows. I loved this stellar novel.
“Thunderbolt” (Atria), by William Kent Krueger.
“Lightning Strike” is about the first time Cork O’Connor has assisted his father, then Sheriff Liam O’Connor, in an investigation. With the author’s signature measured pace, accomplished prose, and elegant plot set in the Northwoods, it’s the Cork rite of passage, unfolding in an investigation that “threatened” more than “the peace in the Connor house “.
“The Burning Girls” (Ballantine), by CJ Tudor.
Henry VIII’s daughter was crowned Bloody Mary because of her massive persecution of Protestants, burning hundreds at the stake. This tragic story is brewing under the sinister mystery of the English village of CJ Tudor. Tudor’s winding plot is populated with intriguing and damaged characters and a narrator with a haunting past. The searing slow suspense of this story leads to a crackling ending.
“Clark and Division” (Soho Crime), by Naomi Hirahara.
Hirahara’s highly accomplished historical mystery set in 1943 concerns the life of two sisters, Rose and Aki Ito, after their release from Manzanar, a Japanese concentration camp in California. Rose first heads for Chicago. When the rest of the family arrive, they learn that Rose is dead, killed on the corner of Clark and Division.