The best books of 2021: the mysteries


Our Mystery columnist selects the best new mystery, suspense and thriller works for 2021.

“The Dark Hours” by Michael Connelly

Retired LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, the hero of many of Michael Connelly’s pleadings, shares the billing on the jacket with Renée Ballard, a young, active-duty officer whose passion for justice matches his, but c ‘is Ballard’s book, with Bosch giving moral and physical support. The title of the novel refers not only to the late-night crew that Renée works but also to the unease that has gripped LA following the protests against police abuse, at the heart of the Covid pandemic. Ballard continues regardless, pursuing a “tag team” of serial rapists even as they rush to litigate the New Years Eve killer of an auto repair shop owner in Hollywood. The sharp observations of the characters, from the victims to the perpetrators, make this entry a remarkable piece.

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“Find Yourself First” by Linwood Barclay

Miles Cookson, a 42-year-old self-made multimillionaire, enjoys life to the fullest until he finds out it will end sooner than expected, due to a debilitating hereditary illness. Officially childless, he nonetheless feels a sting of conscience: during his days of fighting, he donated sperm to a fertility clinic. Shouldn’t he contact the children he has fathered, to warn them of their possible genetic misfortune and to provide for their medical care? Other members of Cookson’s family and business are concerned about how this could diminish their own possible legacies. Soon, shady agents follow Cookson and his offspring he locates; and Miles’ new children begin to disappear as if they never existed. Linwood Barclay can plot like Dickens and vibrate like Hitchcock.

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“The Judge’s List” by John Grisham

Lacy Stoltz, member of the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, bored with her job; most of the issues she examines are “just not that serious”. She was pulled out of her slump by a woman who met her to ask her, “How many complaints have you had about judges killing people?” Jeri Crosby is sure that a certain sitting judge has killed several people over the past 20 years, all of them, including Jeri’s own father, citizens who have made him angry or endangered. Once Lacy agrees to investigate, she and her colleagues attract the chilling attention of Ross Bannick, the tech-savvy lawyer who, in the privacy of his own hidden bunker, considers himself “the brightest killer in the world. ‘American history’.

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Pamela Dorman

Richard Osman’s “The Man Who Died Twice”

British author Richard Osman featured the Thursday Murder Club – a quartet of amateur sleuths living in the ‘posh’ retirement village of Coopers Chase – in his witty and winning 2020 eponymous title. The author increases the charm and the human interest quotient in this second entry, a two-stroke getaway starting with Thursday Club member Elizabeth, approached for life-saving help by Chase’s newest resident: her ex-husband Douglas. . Still active spy, he must appease gangsters who accuse him of having stolen a fortune of diamonds from them. Meanwhile, another Club member is violently assaulted; and the police say nothing official can be done. Mr. Osman has a knack for making readers not only believe in his characters, but care for them.

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“Mother That I Can” by Joshilyn Jackson

Any note that begins with “IF YOU NEVER WANT TO SEE YOUR BABY AGAIN” is sure to bode well for the recipient. So that proves for Bree Cabbat, whose newborn son is snatched from her by a creepy-looking lady who soon informs the panicked Bree what she needs to do: not tell anyone (including her husband from outside of city) and perform a so-called harmless prank. When the “prank” becomes fatal, Bree enlists the help of the head of her husband’s company security firm, who in turn enlists a shrewd lawyer. Their efforts to save Bree’s baby open a box of Pandora’s secrets and actions, in this well-written and powerfully effective story whose protagonists (and readers) end up getting far more than they expected.

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“The intrigue” by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Jacob Finch Bonner is a published author with two books to his credit, but financial necessity and writer’s blockage forces him to make a living as an instructor in a low-rent writing program. There he meets a student who boasts of having an infallible bestseller of a novel plot. When he tells it to Bonner, the professor agrees: it’s a story not to be missed. Several years pass; no such book is published. Bonner learns that the student died shortly after they met. Yet this story lives on in Bonner’s memory. Wouldn’t it be a shame to waste it? The unexpected and horrific things that happen after Bonner appropriates this tale and successfully publishes it make up the plot of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s own bestseller.

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‘Rizzio’ by Denise Mina

The story of the Scottish author Denise Mina on the murder in 1566 of David Rizzio, private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, is only 118 pages long; but it contains more suspense and action than many doorsteps in a historical thriller. The Italian Rizzio was marked to death by a cabal of lords determined to take control of the country; there is no doubt that Mary and her reckless, mean husband (“a reckless fool,” she judges him) are also due for an impending assassination. But the dreaded Mary, sensed by the plotters’ goals, is determined to escape Holyrood Palace and their bloody grip. Written in a style allowing access to the thoughts of several characters, rich in crisp cinematic images, “Rizzio” is a tour de force of the work of art.

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“Smoke” by Joe Ide

Joe Ide writes a detective series in which each entry seems unique. His 6-foot-tall young private investigator protagonist, Isaiah “IQ” Quintabe, of East Long Beach, Calif., Is a work in progress; you never know where his current journey will take him. As the dark-toned “Smoke” begins, he pulls him away from his job and directs him north on the freeway, on the run from the gangbangers who have put a price on his head. “He was exhausted. . . His soul was bleeding. . . He no longer wanted to see suffering, injustice or cruelty. So of course he’s harassed at his first motel by a serial killer obsessive. Multiple subplots add excitement to a book that has the nerve to end (or not end, rather) in a double cliffhanger.

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Megan Abbott’s “Participation”

Megan Abbott’s first-rate thrillers take place in closed environments, where the characters’ passions and resentments boil dangerously. “The Turnout” takes place at a dance school for young people run by two orphaned sisters, Dara and Marie, and Dara’s husband, Charlie. The school’s curriculum centers around its annual production of “The Nutcracker”, with students (pushed by ambitious parents) competing all season long for leading roles. Into this greenhouse of jealousy slips Derek, a manipulative entrepreneur who invites school owners for a costly makeover that strains your nerves. Family secrets are revealed, malicious pranks spill blood, and terror erupts in a way worthy of Patricia Highsmith or Shirley Jackson.

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Elizabeth Brundage’s “Vanishing Point”

They met in the famous Atelier Brodsky for young photographers: Julian, Magda and Rye. Magda fell in love with Rye, whose talent Julian envied. After graduation, Rye married Simone and became one of the most beloved photographers of his generation. Julian married Magda, who gave him a son, and made a lot of money in advertising. Twenty years later, Magda contacts Rye and begs to help her find her child, disappeared in a hell of drug addicts. He agrees to help, then he too disappears. This haunting and unpredictable saga unfolds in crisp sequences that move through time, love and jealousy bubbling everywhere. Elizabeth Brundage, author of the breathtaking 2017 novel “All things stop to appear”, wrote another masterpiece.

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