The Next Chapter's mystery book panel recommend 8 novels to read over the holidays
Why not add some mystery to your holiday cheer? The Next Chapter's mystery panel is back with their annual holiday reading recommendations.
Our 2022 mystery panel — McMaster University professor P.K. Rangachari, Toronto Metropolitan University assistant professor, journalist and mystery writer Angela Misri and Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Cannon — spoke with Shelagh Rogers about eight books that mystery fans should read over the holiday season.
Blackwater Falls by Ausma Zehanat Khan
What it's about: Following a string of unsolved disappearances of girls from immigrant communities in Colorado, Detective Inaya Rahman is recruited to solve the murder of a star student and Syrian refugee, whose body was found positioned deliberately in a mosque.
When the sheriff's department is slow to respond and Rahman's original partner in the case, Lieutenant Waqas Sei, seems to be tampering with the investigation, Rahman enlists the help pf her female colleagues, attorney Areesha Adams and Detective Catalina Hernandez, to uncover the truth behind all of the cases. What they find may pull at the foundations of Blackwater Falls.
Ausma Zehanat Khan grew up in Toronto and now lives in Denver. She's a former professor and former editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl magazine. She's the author of several crime fiction and fantasy novels, including debut novel, The Unquiet Dead, which won the Arthur Ellis award for best first novel. Her other mystery novels include The Language of Secrets, Among the Ruins and A Dangerous Crossing.
This story gets into racial tensions, police corruption and violence.
Angela Misri says: "You've got a three-person team of women with Detective Inaya Rahman, who is half Afghan and half Pakistani, attorney Arisha Adams and another detective, Catalina Hernandez. They're bonded as members of different vulnerable groups working together.
This story gets into racial tensions, police corruption and violence. Inaya is also dealing with pleasing her mother who really wants her to get married. It's something I know well from my South Asian culture. It's just a great story."
The Perfect Crime edited by Vaseem Khan and Maxim Jakubowski
What it's about: Twenty-two crime writers from across the world, including from Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada and New Zealand, are all featured in this collection of cunning, suspenseful and dark crime stories.
Vaseem Khan is a British writer, author of the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels and the Inspector Persis Wadia series.
Maxim Jakubowski is a crime and science fiction writer and critic.
This book collects stories from all around the world. It's like a potluck. (...) Although there are well known writers, it's the unknown ones that are kind of unusual.
P.K. Rangachari says: "[Someone] once said that the best mystery story is a short story where the focus is on the problem and not on anything else. So I've got a collection of short stories called The Perfect Crime. This book collects stories from all around the world. It's like a potluck. You can pull out these stories and read them and although there are well known writers, it's the unknown ones that are kind of unusual."
The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz
What it's about: Anthony Horowitz is the main suspect in the author's latest murder mystery novel, and the only person who can prove he didn't do it is Detective Hawthorne, his ex-partner-in-crime. Soon after Horowitz gives up writing novels about Detective Hawthorne to put on a play at the Vaudeville Theatre in London, England, the theatre critic who gives his play a horrible review turns up dead.
It gets worse: the dagger used to murder the man belongs to Horowitz and it just so happens to have his fingerprints all over it. With an investigator intent on seeing him locked up for good and another theatre critic murdered soon after, Horowitz must ask Hawthorne for help. The question is: will Detective Hawthorne set aside their differences to help an old friend?
Anthony Horowitz is the author of several books including Magpie Murders, Trigger Mortis, the Sherlock Holmes novel Moriarty and the Alex Rider series for young adults. As a TV screenwriter, he created both Midsomer Murders and the BAFTA-winning Foyle's War on PBS.
This is the perfect way to escape after a day of shopping, decorating and eating.
Margaret Cannon says: "It's very funny. It's very smart. The mystery is extremely clever, as we always expect from Horowitz. This is the perfect way to escape after a day of shopping, decorating and eating. Just throw yourself into this and with a bowl of chips. It's great."
Four for Fogo Island by Kevin Major
What it's about: Sebastian Synard is back, this time with his new partner, Mae, on a romantic getaway. Things quickly change when the two discover the owner of a fabric shop stabbed to death, lying in a pool of blood, in the back room of his store. An exciting, comedic and somewhat bizarre investigation ensues as Synard, Mae and Synard's ex-wife's new partner all try to get the bottom of things, often outsmarting and poking fun at each other along the way.
Kevin Major is a writer from Newfoundland. He made a name for himself in 1978 with the YA novel Hold Fast, which was adapted into a feature film. He is also the author of the novel Found Far and Wide and the Sebastian Synard crime novels.
There's a murder in a quilt shop, which is just great. It's how you start a sentence at a party: 'so there was a murder in the quilt shop, right?'
Angela Misri says: "If you love Sebastian Synard's sardonic private eye way of doing things, you're going to love this book. There's a murder in a quilt shop, which is just great. It's how you start a sentence at a party: 'so there was a murder in the quilt shop, right?'
It's a twisty mystery. It's hilarious. It's not my favourite in the series, but I really like the setting and I really like Sebastian."
LISTEN | Kevin Major on the fourth book in his Sebastian Synard crime series:
Red as Blood by Lilja Sigurðardóttir
What it's about: When an entrepreneur named Flosi arrives home to find a ransom note saying his wife has been kidnapped and he is forbidden from going to the police, he enlists the help of Áróra, a specialist in procuring hidden assets. The second book in An Áróra Investigation series, Áróra, along with her investigator friend Daniel, must help Flosi save his wife while Áróra continues searching for her missing sister before it's too late.
Icelandic crime-writer and playwright Lilja Sigurdardóttir has written several crime novels, including Snare, Trap, Cage and Cold as Hell, which is the first in the An Áróra Investigation series.
This Icelandic noir is grim. Sigurdardóttir introduced a different kind of detective, a scam artist more or less who tracks down laundered money and takes a nice, little cut out of it.
P.K. Rangachari says: "This Icelandic noir is grim. Sigurdardóttir introduced a different kind of detective, a scam artist more or less who tracks down laundered money and takes a nice, little cut out of it.
Áróra is the name of the investigator. She's asked to get some ransom money for a woman who has been kidnapped. There are two mysteries: one is what happened to the woman who was kidnapped, and [the other is] where did that money come from?"
The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman
What it's about: The third adventure of the Thursday Murder Club — a group of senior citizens who meet every Thursday to solve murders — sees the gang attempting to solve a decade-old cold case that quickly becomes red hot.
When Elizabeth, one of the members of The Thursday Murder Club, is in trouble, the rest of the group must solve the mystery and save their friend's life before the murderer strikes again.
Richard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. His books include The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice. He lives in London, England.
For those of you who haven't already discovered the fabulous Richard Osman and his Thursday Murder Club, this is the perfect time to start.
Margaret Cannon says: "Another Christmas delight! For those of you who haven't already discovered the fabulous Richard Osman and his Thursday Murder Club, this is the perfect time to start.
Everyone I've recommended it to comes back and tells me: 'why doesn't he write more?' Well, he's only just started so we've got quite a few more to come, I'm sure."
Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths
What it's about: When a controversial politician is found dead at a school reunion, his murder dredges up old memories for Cassidy Fitzgerald. Almost twenty years earlier, she and her friends killed a student while attending Manor Park school. Now, a mother and police officer with a secret past, she suspects one among them may have killed again.
Fitzgerald must do everything in her power to keep the past in the past, including throwing off her new boss, Detective Inspector Harbinder Kaur — that is, until another person shows up dead.
Elly Griffiths is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Brighton mystery series, as well as the novels The Stranger Diaries, which won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel, and The Postscript Murders. She lives in Brighton, England.
I'm back to recommending the sassy and snarky Detective Harbinder Kaur. (...) She's moved up the ranks as a detective inspector. She's expected to be better behaved, but she isn't really.
P.K. Rangachari says: "I'm back to recommending the sassy and snarky Detective Harbinder Kaur, who is Sikh and lesbian. Now, she's moved up the ranks as a detective inspector. She's expected to be better behaved, but she isn't really.
Bleeding Heart Yard is quite funny in many ways, but it's also a story about a sudden death of a very important politician during a school reunion, so it has its complicated strands."
A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny
What it's about: A World of Curiosities is Louise Penny's 18th book in the Armand Gamache series, which takes place in a warm, eccentric, tight-knit community known as Three Pines. This time out, Inspector Gamache gets caught up in a story involving two young siblings who have appeared in the village. The pair were young when their troubled mother was murdered, leaving them damaged. Gamache must uncover why they have arrived in town — before it's too late.
Louise Penny is a bestselling writer most known for her 18-book mystery series following Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. A former CBC broadcaster and journalist, she was named to the Order of Canada in 2013. More recently, Penny collaborated with American politician and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the political thriller State of Terror, which was published in 2021.
We're back in the fabulous town of Three Pines with Gamache and all of the villagers we know and love. I couldn't put it down once I began.
Margaret Cannon says: "Usually when I read a series of books, by the time I hit book ten or 12 or certainly by book 15, they've begun to wind down. This series just gets better and better. We're back in the fabulous town of Three Pines with Gamache and all of the villagers we know and love. I couldn't put it down once I began."
WATCH | Louise Penny's novels come to life in new series, Three Pines:
Comments have been edited for length and clarity.