Our picks for best crime, mystery and thriller books of November 2020 include highly anticipated Scandinavian crime titles such as The Kingdom by Jo Nesbo and The Night of the Fire by Kjell Eriksson, as well as historical and cozy mysteries like Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March and Open for Murder by Mary Angela.
These mystery and thriller books will surely bring joy to avid crime fiction and mystery readers. (Note: For our coverage of best crime, mystery, and thriller books in previous months including September 2020, please visit here.)
Engine 8-12 by Scott Offermann. Steve Quinn’s life is shattered with a single phone call. After thirty years of trying to forget his past, the call rekindles memories buried deep in his mind. Confronting his personal demons, Steve takes his wife and family into his past and into the world of firefighting he thought he had left behind, full of thoughts and emotions first responders seldom talk about.
Following the crew’s experiences, it explores a world which is rife with demons both real and imagined. After the death of a fellow firefighter, each of the crew member confronts the reality of being a first responder. Engine 8-12 is an action-packed, adrenaline- pumping look into the lives of first responders.
Double Agent by Tom Bradby. Kidnapped in Venice by a Russian defector, Kate knows she’s in trouble. But when he offers her conclusive video evidence that the British Prime Minister is a live agent working for Moscow, Kate’s holiday quickly becomes the start of her next mission.
Riddled with doubt that the evidence she is presented with may not in fact be as bulletproof as it seems, Kate reopens the investigation into the PM. As she works through the case, Kate runs up against key people at the heart of the British Establishment who refuse to acknowledge the reality in front of them. And, more worryingly, clear signs that there’s still a mole in her department.
But Kate had already identified and eradicated the mole, codenamed Viper. Could she have been mistaken? And could this horrifying video be a fake, produced by the Russians to sabotage British democracy?
These questions plague Kate as she tries to keep it together for her children and ailing mother, steadily losing sleep and, she fears, her sanity. This mission will push Kate dangerously close to the edge as she continues her relentless fight for the truth.
The Kingdom by Jo Nesbo (November 10). Roy has never left the quiet mountain town he grew up in, unlike his little brother Carl who couldn’t wait to get out and escape his troubled past. Just like everyone else in town, Roy believed Carl was gone for good.
But Carl has big plans for his hometown. And when he returns with a mysterious new wife and a business opportunity that seems too good to be true, simmering tensions begin to surface and unexplained deaths in the town’s past come under new scrutiny. Soon powerful players set their sights on taking the brothers down by exposing their role in the town’s sordid history.
But Roy and Carl are survivors, and no strangers to violence. Roy has always protected his younger brother. As the body count rises, though, Roy’s loyalty to family is tested. And then Roy finds himself inextricably drawn to Carl’s wife, Shannon, an attraction that will have devastating consequences. Roy’s world is coming apart and soon there will be no turning back. He’ll be forced to choose between his own flesh and blood and a future he had never dared to believe possible.
Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz (November 10). Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is living the good life. She is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her long-term boyfriend Andreas. It should be everything she’s always wanted. But is it? She’s exhausted with the responsibilities of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, and truth be told she’s beginning to miss London.
And then the Trehearnes come to stay. The strange and mysterious story they tell, about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married—a picturesque inn on the Suffolk coast named Farlingaye Hall—fascinates Susan and piques her editor’s instincts.
One of her former writers, the late Alan Conway, author of the fictional Magpie Murders, knew the murder victim—an advertising executive named Frank Parris—and once visited Farlingaye Hall. Conway based the third book in his detective series, Atticus Pund Takes the Cake, on that very crime.
The Trehearne’s, daughter, Cecily, read Conway’s mystery and believed the book proves that the man convicted of Parris’s murder—a Romanian immigrant who was the hotel’s handyman—is innocent. When the Trehearnes reveal that Cecily is now missing, Susan knows that she must return to England and find out what really happened.
The Year of the Gun by H.B. Lyle. 1912. Released from the Secret Service, Wiggins sets out for New York and his lost lover Bela. But after an altercation on board, he finds himself among the low-life of Britain’s poorest city, Dublin.
Wiggins falls in with gangster Patrick O’Connell and is soon driving the boss’s girlfriend around town. Molly wants O’Connell to support her Irish nationalist cause – a cause needing guns to defeat the British – and then they go to find them in America.
Finally, Wiggins can solve the mystery of Bela – and meet his old mentor, Sherlock Holmes in a story of escalating intrigue, danger and violence.
The Package by Sebastian Fitzek. The only survivor of a killer known in the tabloids as “the barber,” Emma gives up her job and retreats from the world to stay at home. Quiet. Anonymous. Safe. He won’t find her here. All she did was take a parcel for a neighbor. She has no idea what she’s let into her home.
The Canterbury Murders (A Stanton and Barling Mystery, Book 3) by E.M. Powell. Easter, 1177. Canterbury Cathedral, home to the tomb of martyr Saint Thomas Becket, bears the wounds of a terrible fire. Benedict, prior of the great church, leads its rebuilding. But horror interrupts the work. One of the stonemasons is found viciously murdered, the dead man’s face disfigured by a shocking wound.
When King’s clerk Aelred Barling and his assistant, Hugo Stanton, arrive on pilgrimage to the tomb, the prior orders them to investigate the unholy crime.
But the killer soon claims another victim–and another. As turmoil embroils the congregation, the pair of sleuths face urgent pressure to find a connection between the killings.
With panic on the rise, can Barling and Stanton catch the culprit before evil prevails again—and stop it before it comes for them?
The Canterbury Murders is the third book in E.M. Powell’s Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. Combining intricate plots, shocking twists and a winning–if unlikely–pair of investigators, this series is perfect for fans of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael or C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake.
Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March. In 1892, Bombay is the center of British India. Nearby, Captain Jim Agnihotri lies in Poona military hospital recovering from a skirmish on the wild northern frontier, with little to do but re-read the tales of his idol, Sherlock Holmes, and browse the daily papers. The case that catches Captain Jim’s attention is being called the crime of the century: Two women fell from the busy university’s clock tower in broad daylight.
Moved by Adi, the widower of one of the victims — his certainty that his wife and sister did not commit suicide — Captain Jim approaches the Parsee family and is hired to investigate what happened that terrible afternoon.
But in a land of divided loyalties, asking questions is dangerous. Captain Jim’s investigation disturbs the shadows that seem to follow the Framji family and triggers an ominous chain of events. And when lively Lady Diana Framji joins the hunt for her sisters’ attackers, Captain Jim’s heart isn’t safe, either.
The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly (November 10). On the night he celebrates a big win, defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a former client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is immediately charged with murder but can’t post the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge.
Mickey elects to represent himself and is forced to mount his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles. All the while he needs to look over his shoulder—as an officer of the court he is an instant target, and he makes few friends when he reveals a corruption plot within the jail.
But the bigger plot is the one against him. Haller knows he’s been framed, whether by a new enemy or an old one. As his trusted team, including his half-brother, Harry Bosch, investigates, Haller must use all his skills in the courtroom to counter the damning evidence against him.
Even if he can obtain a not-guilty verdict, Mickey understands that it won’t be enough. In order to be truly exonerated, he must find out who really committed the murder and why. That is the law of innocence.
The Night of the Fire by Kjell Eriksson (November 17). Police inspector Ann Lindell has left the Uppsala police and is living a quiet life, producing local cheese in a small town in Uppland. But life in the country is not as idyllic as it seems. On New Year’s Eve someone sets fire to the former village school which is now a home for asylum seekers, and three people are killed.
Ann Lindell’s investigative instincts come back to life and soon she takes on the case. She is contacted by a person who has been involved in a previous investigation and who wants to warn her. His message is short and clear: Many will die. A few weeks later a bomb explodes in a suburb of Stockholm.
Fate of the Unwilling (Fate & Fortune Book 1) by Amy Lee (November 24). In this darkly riveting debut—a psychological thriller about inescapable fate—a woman wakes in the damp woods of a Washington harbor town naked and bruised, with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Maybe she’s a victim. Maybe not. She stumbles through heavy fog towards a marina, drawn to the deaf man who will change her life forever.
Silas Wayland offers his guest room. He even agrees to call her Daphne when she refuses Jane Doe. But that’s not her name. She’s three-thousand-miles away from home and he doesn’t believe in coincidences. What does she want and is the memory loss real? Keeping an eye on her is the only way to protect his secrets and conceal their connection until he can be sure.
When his brother shows up with a badge and a lot of questions, neither is eager to trust the small-town cop or the FBI trailing behind, but both discover their secrets are only as warm as the lies they tell.
Disturbing memories return painting a woman she doesn’t want to be. Links to a class-action lawsuit, a corporate cover-up, an affair, and blackmail—all signs of a life worth forgetting—ensure she keeps the past to herself. Authorities are anxious to find an attacker but she traces the sparks that ignited him.
In a sprint to the truth, she reconstructs the events leading up to that foggy morning, determined to vindicate her transgressions and find justice. Gathering evidence to take down the men who wanted her silent won’t be legal but Silas may be the only person qualified to help. He wavers between her cause and blowing his cover until he discovers the forces that brought her there set targets on him.
The Camel Driver by Leonard Krishtalka. Paleontologist turned private investigator, Harry Przewalski, excavates the dirty underbelly of people’s lives, unearthing sexual betrayals, treachery, fraud and murder buried beneath the science of petrified shards, skin and bones. Ultimately, he must face a brutal killing in his own past, when he fled to a desert war and came back with a gun and a license to detect.
A famous, 140-year-old museum diorama is vandalized––it depicts the ferocious attack by two lions on a North African courier crossing the Sahara on a dromedary. The belly of the taxidermied camel has been sliced open and a bundle removed, shedding bits of flesh from a child. Harry is hired to investigate the macabre history of the exhibit.
The taxidermist has a grisly past: a sexual affair, a lover’s betrayal, a lurid trial, and graves in Botswana and Tunisia plundered for human dioramas. The camel driver’s skull and skin are mounted under his clothing. In a Paris museum, a dead archaeologist, a bloodstained journal, and the theft of a Neanderthal child’s skull and teeth lead Harry to the stolen bundle––a scientific bombshell worth killing for in a murderous race for fame.
Don’t You Want Me? by Richard Easter (November 27). London,1981. As race riots erupt, Prince Charles and Lady Diana prepare to marry & New Romantics dance, an identity-shifting serial killer is operating in plain sight. But no-one has realised except Detective Inspector Anna Leeding, who has secrets of her own…
“Don’t You Want Me?” is a novel for fans of twists, thrillers, history, music, and popular culture.
Richard Easter, author of “The General Theory Of Haunting” & “The Gentle Art Of Forgetting” turns his perspective-and-time-bending literary style to the serial killer genre with “Don’t You Want Me?”
Amid the cultural and social upheaval of 1981,D.I. Leeding suspects apparent accidents and suicides could be subtle acts of revenge, and strange blue charcoal messages may be the key to something bigger and deadlier.
But in this cat-and-mouse story of vengeance, no-one is quite what they seem, and in 1981, when the New Romantics played with image, first appearances can be deceptive.
1981 was not so removed from today, with a highly divisive celebrity President, and race protests filling the streets. A time when gender and sexual identity were openly questioned, and the far right clashed with the far left. There was an existential threat; today, climate change and Covid-19, in 1981,we hoarded food and prepared for when either the U.S or Russian leader pushed the nuclear button.
So to everyone who was there and those for whom this is their first time, “Don’t You Want Me?’ welcomes you to 1981. It was a hell of a year.
Open for Murder by Mary Angela (November 24). It’s Memorial Day weekend in Spirit Canyon, and for Zo that means the return of summer shoppers. It also means the return of her good friend Beth, who’s moved back to the area to reopen her family’s premier hotel, Spirit Canyon Lodge. Beth and Zo spent many childhood summers there and Zo can’t wait to reconnect and celebrate the Grand Opening.
But the festivities go from bad to worse when a power outage knocks out the lights—and morning reveals a competitor’s dead body found on the premises.
Soon enough, Beth is the prime suspect in the suspicious death. Fortunately, Zo isn’t afraid to put her investigative skills to work and prove her friend’s innocence.
To start digging for information, she appeals to Max Harrington, a local Forest Ranger and unlikely ally. Though they’ve argued about Happy Camper’s tours, in this case they agree on one thing: Beth isn’t a murderer. Stranger things have happened than their collaboration. After all, this is Spirit Canyon. But as the list of suspects grows, Zo will have to keep her guard up if she doesn’t want to be the next lodge guest to check out.