November officially kicks off the holiday season, which means you’re putting together shopping lists and trying to pick out the perfect gifts for everybody. You have to practice self-care, though, which means that aside from choosing the best mysteries to give to your loved ones as gifts, you have to pick out a few for yourself. This week’s best mysteries include new adventures from the best in the business, including the very real Janet Evanovich and Louise Penny and the very fictional Jessica Fletcher.
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Look Alive Twenty-Five, by Janet Evanovich
Twenty-five books in and Stephanie Plum is going strong as ever, still tackling gritty mysteries with humor, smarts, and competence to spare. This time around Plum’s attention is drawn to the Red River Deli in Trenton, famous for its pastrami and its cole slaw. More recently, it’s become famous because of its disappearing managers—three in the last month, each leaving behind a single shoe. Lula tries to convince Stephanie it’s aliens abducting humans for experiments, but Stephanie figures on something a little less exotic—and takes over running the business herself in order to get to the bottom of things. It’s certainly not the first time Plum has put herself in danger for the sake of a case—and she can only hope it won’t be her last.
Kingdom of the Blind, by Louise Penny
Penny’s 14th book featuring Chief Inspector Gamache begins with the retired chief of the Sûreté du Québec receiving the surprising news that he’s one of three executors of the estate of an elderly woman he’s never met. With his suspension and the events that led to it still under excruciatingly slow investigation, Gamache agrees to participate, even thought the terms of the will are outlandish, leading him and his fellow executors to wonder if the old woman was mentally sound. When a dead body turns up, however, it prompts Gamache to reconsider—because the terms of the will suddenly seem much less strange, and much more ominous. Meanwhile the drugs he allowed to remain on the streets as part of his plan to destroy the drug cartels are still out there—and if he doesn’t find them, and soon, there will be devastation throughout the city. For once, Chief Inspector Gamache is something wholly unexpected: desperate.
Robert B. Parker’s Blood Feud, by Mike Lupica
In response to a request from Robert B. Parker’s fans, veteran sportswriter-turned-novelist Lupica brings the late Parker’s only female private eye, Sunny Randall, back in this exciting, fast-paced seventh novel. Sunny—hypercompetent as a private detective—is struggling with her emotional state as she deals with being divorced but still drawn to her ex-husband, Richie Burke. Richie, the son of local mobster Desmond Burke, gets shot in the back one night—but the shooter makes it clear that he was left alive on purpose, and that it’s part of a grudge against the Burkes in general. A few nights later, his bookie uncle Peter is shot dead. The Burkes want to handle this on their own, but Sunny can’t stay out of it, even when her investigation beings her repeatedly up against old foe Albert Antonioni, supposedly retired after trying to bump Sunny off. Lupica does Parker proud with this energized, smart story, and Sunny’s fans old and new will be very happy with the way everything turns out.
The Colors of All the Cattle, by Alexander McCall Smith
The nineteenth novel featuring Mwa Ramotswe and her fellow investigators and residents of the town of Gaborone is as delightful and insightful as ever. Ramotswe is persuaded to run for a seat on the city council when it’s revealed that the arch-enemy of her agency partner Grace, Vera Sephotho, is in the race. Vera supports a terrible initiative to build a luxury hotel next to the town’s cemetery, which gives Mwa Ramotswe the moral edge in the race, but her compulsively honest answers to questions might complicate her campaign. Meanwhile, the agency deals with the investigation of a hit-and-run case even as their assistant Charlie, finally growing up, engages in his first true romance.
A Christmas Revelation, by Anne Perry
Perry’s tradition of offering a Christmas-themed Victorian mystery continues, this time telling the story of nine-year old Worm, an orphan living in mid-19th century London. Worm has found an ersatz family at Hester Monk’s clinic, located at the site of a former brothel, and especially in the sweet Claudine Burroughs and the sour Squeaky Robinson, who once worked at the brothel and now serves as the clinic’s bookkeeper. One day Worm sees a woman on the street who immediately infatuates him with her gentle visage—only to be apparently attacked and kidnapped. Distressed, Worm enlists the reluctant but experienced Squeaky to help him track down the lady and ride to her rescue—but of course, twists and turns abound as they walk the cobble stone streets in search of clues.
Murder, She Wrote: Manuscript for Murder, by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land
Fans of the classic TV show and fans of great mysteries alike will be thrilled with Land’s second outing with writer and detective Jessica Fletcher. In New York for a meeting with her publisher, Fletcher is approached by a fellow writer named Thomas Rudd who tells her he thinks their publisher, Lane Barfield, is skimming money form their royalties—and later turns up dead in a suspicious gas explosion. When she meets with Barfield, however, he can only talk about a new novel he’s acquired from an unknown writer named Benjamin Tally, and he gives Fletcher a copy of it for her opinion. Then the bodies begin to pile up: Barfield turns up dead, an apparent if unlikely suicide, and two other authors who saw the manuscript are dead as well. When Fletcher herself is attacked and left for dead before she can finish the book, she seeks out allies and digs in like only Jessica Fletcher can.
The Shadows We Hide, by Allen Eskens
Report Joe Talbert, Jr. reads about a man named Joe ‛Toke’ Talbert, recently murdered in a small Minnesota town. Joe never knew his father, and he wonders if this man might turn out to be his namesake. He begins looking into the man’s life and murder, and finds no shortage of suspects who might have wanted Toke dead, as he was by all reports a terrible human being and worse father. Toke’s wife died shortly before under suspicious circumstances, leaving Toke with a large inheritance, making the solution to his murder an even more complex puzzle—especially since, if Toke is in fact Joe’s father, the money would legally be his. Part personal journey, part grim mystery, Joe learns as much about himself as he does about the man who might be his father as the mystery takes a few delirious twists before the surprising, satisfying ending.
The Whispered Word, by Ellery Adams
Nora Pennington and the Secret, Book, and Scone Society return to run Miracle Books and feed the soul with the perfect choice of novel. A new business opens in town, Virtual Genie, offering cash for unwanted goods that it then sells on the Internet. Everyone thinks owner Griffin Kingsley is a perfect gentleman, but Nora isn’t sold. And when an obviously terrified young girl named Abilene wearing a hospital bracelet and some bruises turns up hiding in the store, followed by a pair of suspicious deaths, Nora begins to suspect that Abilene is the next target—and that Griffin Kingsley’s arrival at the same time may not be as much of a coincidence as it first appears.
Whether it’s holiday stress, plane ride downtime, or the simple pleasures in life, nothing beats a good supply of mysteries to feed the soul while the cold weather moves in. Grab a bunch from this list and thank us later!