Best Mystery Books We’ve Recently Reviewed
Every day, Hidden Gems subscribers receive the opportunity to review hundreds of complimentary books spanning more than 15 genres – hopefully leaving an honest review on Amazon when they’re done. A regular feature on this blog is a periodic highlight of some true ‘Hidden Gems’ our subscribers discovered in various genres, and why you might want to check them out. Keep checking back for the latest lists, categorized by genre, and learn about some of the best books that we’ve sent out. Or, join our list of readers and help discover future gems yourself!
Romance books might be the muscle of the publishing industry, but mystery books are definitely its heart. From cozy murder mysteries to gritty revenge stories, it’s an all-encompassing genre with legions of dedicated fans. In recent months, we’ve shared some of the best mystery books with our subscribers; and here are a few of the favorites our readers have discovered.
False Gods by W. Glenn Duncan Jr
It took 25 years for the latest in the seven-book Hardboiled P.I. series to emerge – and Hidden Gems subscribers got a chance to enjoy a free copy of it. False Gods features the return of cynical flat-foot Rafferty, who finds himself caught between a gun-toting Texas cult and the federal government when a simple missing persons case turns out to not be nearly as simple as he’d anticipated.
W. Glenn Duncan Jnr is actually the son of the original author of the Hardboiled P.I. series, and managed to capture the classic tone of his father’s books while bringing the series bang up to date with an adventure that mirrors real-life headlines from our recent past.
Reviewer alice_in_wonderland had this to say in her 5-star review: “…a new author to take the reins nearly 30 years after his dad’s last book is no mean feat, and to do it so smoothly and so authentically is impressive indeed. Is this new Rafferty the exact same Rafferty from way back when? No, not exactly – but Duncan, Jr. adroitly manages to capture the core essence of morally-driven tough-guy Rafferty and present him in a slightly deeper, darker, more modern, more thought-provoking light.”
The Sorrow Hand by Dwight Holing
In my eyes, you can’t beat the grit of a contemporary western, and that’s what we’ve got in The Sorrow Hand, the first in the Nick Drake series. Set in the 1960s, it follows an embittered Vietnam vet turned wildlife ranger, who uncovers a sinister murder in the sun-drenched wilderness of Oregon.
Reviewer Terrill D. Carpenter praised the blending of action and adventure in what remains an undeniably true mystery book: “This is definitely a mystery. It is not filled with action, though there is a great deal of it, and it does not depend upon “action scenes” to carry the storyline, that is carried forward from scene to scene, by an excellent overall plot, great characterization, and a writing style that many other authors may envy.”
Reviewer Jeffery Miller praised the characterization of the hero, whose personal battles are almost as intrinsic to this book as his struggle to find the murderer: “Drake is a very interesting and complex character that drives the story through flashbacks to Vietnam around the time of the Tet Offensive and his current job as a conservation officer. This page-turner will keep you guessing and riveted to the end.”
Death List by John Sneeden
Death List straddles the line between science fiction and mystery, with its near-future setting and the possibility of android assassination; but the fast-paced, keep-you-guessing story line made it an instant favorite with whodunnit fans.
Reviewer Lynn H loved both the futuristic setting and the political twists: “I very much enjoyed reading what I hope is the first of many Silas Beck crime solving adventures. The fast pace with good transitions between scenes kept my interest peaked throughout. The futuristic touches mixed with the familiar also add to the book’s interest and allows the reader to maintain a good visualization of the escalating events. Sign me up for the next book in the series!”
JCB also enjoyed the blend of unlikely elements that resulted in such a congruent whole: “Who could ask for anything more. Mr. Sneeden has woven a murder mystery within the Federal government and thrown in ‘Future’ elements that seem plausible. Please, oh, please don’t make us wait a year for the next book. Enjoy.”
The Moon Stands Still by Sibella Giorello
It may seem odd to find a Pulitzer Prize-nominated author in a list of the best mystery books, but Sibella Giorello has been praised for her highly-relateable and brilliant forensic geologist character Raleigh Harmon, who is now seven books into her own series. In The Moon Stands Still, Raleigh has to juggle her complicated love life with two high-stakes cases; and finds out that both might be linked in ways she could have never anticipated.
Reviewer Biker Babs gave the book a 5-star verified review, writing: “Geology has never seemed so cool. And I was terrible in science. Definitely a book you’ll have a hard time putting down. I know I did. She has created the most wonderful, complex, multi-dimensional characters in her Raleigh Harmon series. Characters that are so real that (don’t tell anyone, but…) sometimes I feel like I really know them.”
C.J. Darlington is a fan of the series, but praised how Giorello managed to keep things fresh: “The Moon Stands Still is a welcome addition to the Raleigh Harmon series, and everything we like about Raleigh is here in spades–smarts, toughs, and vulnerability. Much more of that, actually, than in her other stories. Because Raleigh is not only juggling two cases (a murder and a decades old heist), but she’s trying to figure out her feelings for a certain handsome FBI agent. This adds a romantic thread to this series not seen in the other books. Fans of romantic suspense tales will find delight in it.”
Blood Will Tell by P.L. Doss
Hollis Joplin and Tom Halloran are an unlikely duo of investigator and attorney, and Blood Will Tell is the second time they’ve teamed up.
Set in the broiling streets of Atlanta, this murder mystery begins with a twist when the blood-soaked body Joplin discovers in a beautiful Georgian estate turns out not to be dead at all.
Barbara Lee highlighted one of my favorite aspects of any good book – the richly-realized setting. “This book kept me in suspense from the first page. As an Atlanta area resident, I enjoyed the ‘local flavor’, but even if I lived in Nebraska, this book would have kept me riveted. The author managed to tie together several seemingly unrelated story lines that were actually interlocked. The book incorporated mystery and suspense, but also family ties and divisive family issues in a very convincing way. The topics were woven together until the final, and surprising climax was revealed.”
Mystery fan Angel Erin was thrilled with the twist in the tale: “An ending that I don’t see coming is always something I love! I recommend this one for sure.”
Against the Undertow by Bethany Maines
The best mystery books often use setting and location to expertly set the mood and frame the story, and Against the Undertow is a great example of this. Taking place in the richly-realized San Juan islands in Washington State, the novel tells the story of a former actress intent on developing a wedding resort but soon turns into a reluctant private investigator when a former lover is accused of murder.
Reviewer Illinois Reader highlighted one of the best parts of this book – the humor and upbeat tone: “The author makes much of the renovation work insignificant and shows a great sense of humor while the girls (Tish and friend Sarah who has come for the weekend to help) go hardware store shopping. While humor is used throughout the book, the author also knows exactly when to change the tone, and has many serious and scary moments as well.”
H. Graf praised the book too – although pointed out the inevitable “Miss Marple” problem in any location-set series (in Agatha Christie’s stories, people wondered if there was a more sinister reason why benevolent old lady Miss Marple was always around when murder was committed.) “The author has a great way of integrating humor, suspense and intelligent dialog. Bethany did not disappoint with a surprise at the end. I look forward to more books in this series but I do wonder why Orcas Island makes people do crazy things!”
Murder of a Straw Man by Robyn Beecroft
The existence of England’s ‘Morris Dancing’ is a mystery in itself, but also serves as the theme to The Dancing Detective Mysteries – this book being the first in the series. This mystery also features a same-sex love as village newcomer Rory tries to uncover a murderer while at the same time get closer to handsome British bobby Zach.
IndieAuthorCoop loved the rich setting, writing: “If I didn’t have a fascination with the Fenlands of eastern England, Morris dancing, Oliver Cromwell, and the Straw Bear Festival of Whittlesea, I certainly do now! I won’t go into detail about the pleasant hours I’ve since spent delving into these rich subjects and locations, but will turn to convincing you to buy this gem of a book, which deserves (and will eventually get, I’m sure) a wide readership. I’m already tapping my foot, waiting eagerly for the sequel. Meanwhile I plan to read it again, now that I have studied the area where the mystery unfolds.”
Celtic Engineer praised the fresh new take on a well-trodden genre, writing: “Fresh, engaging protagonists. Skilled character development, and a knack for bringing the scenes alive….. Loved it! Write another 20 please, Robyn!”
White Lies by Alice Sabo
A Hollywood bad-boy gets accused of murder, and the only people who can help him are the ones he’d spurned and abused during years of substance abuse. That’s the setup for Alice Sabo’s thrilling mystery; and it’s a fresh and invigorating take on a Lost Weekend style murder mystery.
“The gritty descriptions of the recovery process hit hard,” writes reviewer Tree House Reader. “This is a well-written mystery with layers of deceit. Looking forward to the next book!”
Reviewer Connie Dean also liked how the hero’s recovery was as much a part of the story as the murder itself. “This is a good story of redemption as well as a mystery. The characters are very well developed and relatable. I really cared about Asher and was rooting for him to repair past relationships and clear his name.”
The Last Lie by Dana Killion
Investigative journalist Andrea Kellner embarks on her second outing in this fast-paced thriller, in which the rush to track down the mystery of a tainted energy drink takes a personal toll when Andrea’s own sister battles for her life after ingesting one.
Sophie Hogan reviewed the book, writing that it was a fresh take on the mystery genre: “I really love this mystery series because so far the two books center around the complex interconnections between the white collar/corporate and political dynamics behind crimes that are often motivated by power, money, and elitism. For this reason, the book reads really fresh to me.”
Booklover praised Andrea as a really strong female protagonist: “Andrea Kellner is a terrific series character. She’s gutsy, she’s bright, she’s determined. She’s got a little romance .. maybe … going with a detective who keeps reminding her she is not a cop and she should keep her nose out of his cases. Doesn’t do much good .. but it does create some interesting exchanges between the two of them. The story premise is complex, but easy to follow.”
A Town Called Horse by Alexandra Amor
Subscribers were treated to not one, but four of the best mystery books with this boxed set, described as “the love child of Miss Marple and Little House on the Prairie” and promising a combination of “modern themes with old-fashioned values.”
Set in the old west, the stories are set in the town of Horse, and feature a clean but fast-paced take on the mystery genre.
Reviewer Laura S. Reading praised the style of the books: “The mysteries are not complex, but serve to teach the reader about the character of the main citizens of Horse. I can see these quiet escapes appealing to readers of Jan Karon’s Mitford series or the Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross.”
Mererid Evanna loved the richly-realized locale, and praised the unique tone of the stories: “They have a rather dogged straightforwardness and are appropriately atmospheric. I particularly enjoyed the depiction of the town coming together to replace the lost steam ship. The characters are nicely drawn and very individual. I look forward to reading more about them.”