2023 Holiday Picks - Mystery / Crime



Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead. This stylish sequel to Harlem Shuffle moves a decade forward to the 1970s, where furniture store owner Ray Carney and his partner in crime Pepper navigate a city and neighborhood beset by corruption and political unrest. The book takes place in three different years, with each section focusing on a different storyline involving the protagonists. Whitehead's gift with words enriches this fully realized portrait of a time and place - in his hands, Harlem is a main character on its own.  The result is a crime thriller elevated to a layered, nuanced literary masterwork.  

The Golden Gate by Amy Chua. Boy, is this a good one! Set in Berkeley in 1944, the story starts out with a bang (literally) in the Claremont Hotel, where a presidential candidate has been assassinated. For homicide detective Al Sullivan, solving the case means dealing with white privilege at its most imperious, with the formidable Bainbridge heiresses and their intimidating grandmother - all suspects - offering up flirtations, misdirection, and disdain. Throw a tragic death years earlier and Sullivan's precocious niece into the mix and you have a terrific story. 

The Last Devil to Die: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery by Richard Osman. This fourth installment with the intrepid crime-solving senior citizens of the Coopers Chase retirement community finds the quartet investigating the murder of a friend in possession of a mysterious package that’s gone missing. Their search draws them into the antiques business, where the tricks of the trade are as old as the objects themselves, and encounters with drug dealers, art forgers, and online fraudsters. Osman also fleshes out some of his characters and says a poignant goodbye to one in particular as he takes a break from the series.

Mother-Daughter Murder Night by Nina Simon. High-powered L.A. real estate agent Lana is forced by health issues to move to the Monterey Bay area with her semi-estranged daughter Beth and teenage granddaughter Jack, whose low key, sleepy lifestyle could itself be the death of Lana. But when Jack's discovery of a dead body lands her on the cops’ suspect list, Lana gains new life and the three generations of women tackle a murder case tied to a land use dispute. The evolving family dynamics are as enjoyable as the mystery in this welcome addition to the amateur sleuth genre. 

The Secret Hours by Mick Herron. This generation’s John LeCarre pauses his Slough House series to deliver another stellar spy story set in the same clandestine world. The plot revolves around a disastrous MI5-classified mission in 1994 Berlin--an operation that ended in tragedy and scandal, whose cover-up has rewritten thirty years of Service history. As always, Herron’s prose is dark and acerbic, and fans of his books will recognize characters from Slough House. But new readers will also enjoy this intro to a polished brand of espionage fiction.