Our picks for best crime, mystery and thriller books of December 2020 include the highly anticipated Scandinavian crime novel Lazarus by Lars Kepler, as well as cozy mysteries like Wedding Bear Blues by Meg Macy and notable titles such as Blind Vigil by Matt Coyle.
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 November 2020, please visit here).
Net Force: Attack Protocol by Jerome Preisler (December 1). The bestselling Net Force thriller series, created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik and written by Jerome Preisler, reveals the invisible battlefield where the war for global dominance is fought.
The president’s new cybersecurity team, Net Force, is up and running. But a political deadlock in Washington makes the young agency dangerously vulnerable to the criminals, terror groups and hostile governments who would use the digital space to advance their destructive goals.
In Central Europe, an unknown enemy mounts a crippling high-tech assault against the organization’s military threat-response unit on its home base. The strike casts suspicion on a core member of Net Force, threatening to destroy the cyber defense group from within. But as they race to track down their attackers, the stakes are suddenly ratcheted higher. For a global syndicate of black hat hackers and a newly belligerent Russia are hatching a mysterious, shadowy scheme for world domination from a place known only as the Secret City.
Their attack protocol: leave Net Force in ashes while Moscow and its Dark Web allies set the stage for a devastating strike against the United States. Unless the men and women of Net Force can regroup in time to stop them.
Murder Run by John Hunt (December 1). Kyle didn’t like being told what to do. When his brother demanded that he get himself home right now, no stopping, no passing GO and no collecting two-hundred dollars, the order didn’t sit well with him. So, he stopped at a bar in an unknown town.
He met a girl. They drank, left, did drugs together, and when he awoke in the morning, her decapitated head lay in his lap. As he pieces together what happened the night before, a police cruiser rolls in behind him. From that moment, the chase is on. What Kyle doesn’t know is that he isn’t the only killer in town.
Lazarus by Lars Kepler (December 1). All across Europe, the most ruthless criminals are suffering gruesome deaths. At first, it seems coincidental that their underworld affiliations are finally catching up to them.
But when two of the victims are found to have disturbing connections to Detective Joona Linna, it becomes clear that there’s a single killer at work. Still, police are reluctant to launch an investigation. If a mysterious vigilante is making their jobs easier, why stand in his way? Joona, however, is convinced this is no would-be hero. These deaths serve a much darker purpose.
Desperate for help, Joona turns to Saga Bauer. If his hunch is correct, she’s one of the few people who stands a chance at bringing this criminal mastermind down. But Saga is fighting her own demons—and the killer knows just how to use them to his advantage. He continues to strike with impunity, and no one, it seems, is safe.
When the killer begins targeting those closest to Saga and Joona, it appears more and more likely that Joona has been right all along, and that tracking down the person responsible will force him to confront a ghost from his past . . . the most terrifying villain he’s ever had to face.
Blind Vigil by Matt Coyle (December 1). Blinded by a gunshot wound to the face while working as a private investigator nine months ago, Rick Cahill is now sure of only one thing: he has to start a new life and leave his old one behind.
He’s still trying to figure out what that life is when his onetime partner, Moira MacFarlane, asks for his help on a case she’s taken for Rick’s former best friend. The case is simple and Moira only needs Rick for one interview, but Rick is wary of waking sleeping demons.
Ultimately, he goes against his gut and takes the case which quickly turns deadly. Rick’s old compulsion of finding the truth no matter the cost—the same compulsion that cost him his eyesight and almost his life—battles against his desire to escape his past.
The stakes are raised when Rick’s friend is implicated in murder and needs his help. Can he help the friend he no longer trusts while questioning his own lessened capabilities? His life depends on the answer as a shadowy killer lurks in the darkness.
A Whisker of a Doubt (A Cat Cafe Mystery) by Cate Conte (December 1). It’s promising to be a picture-purrfect Christmas at New England’s favorite cat cafe…but instead of jolly old St. Nick, residents are being visited by murder. The fourth in a mystery series from author Cate Conte, A Whisker of a Doubt is filled with felines and crime.
The holiday season on Daybreak Island is a mixed bag for Maddie James. On the one hand, her Christmas spirit is in the doghouse after a break-up. On the other, she’s busy enough that she doesn’t have to pretend to be merry. Business at her cat café is booming, and Maddie’s care-taking of a feral cat colony in one of the area’s wealthiest communities only helps her bottom line.
But tensions between the homeowners and animal activists are escalating to catastrophic levels. . .and before long a body is found dead in a snowbank. To prove that her accused friend is innocent of the crime, Maddie will have to prowl the island for clues to the real killer before everyone on the island goes completely hiss-terical—and more than nine lives are lost.
The Perfect 10 (A Palm Beach Murder Mystery) by Eric O’Keefe (December 8). The final of the US Open is just days away, and Juancito Harrington, the world’s best polo player, is found dead in a posh Palm Beach hotel suite.
The good news is that Palm Beach P.D. quickly identifies the trophy wife of Juancito’s team owner as the primary suspect. The bad news is that everyone in polo knows that Kelly Dick doesn’t murder her lovers. She recycles them.
Only one man can crack the case: Rick Hunt, a West Point graduate currently assigned to the White House. Hunt is no detective, but he’s a lifelong polo player who needs no introduction to the world’s top pros. Or his ex-fiancée. Or her new boyfriend, an old teammate with a score to settle.
A Killer’s Game by Luca Tahtieazym (December 3). France, 1986. Achilles Clazay is a successful and charismatic businessman who is adored by his partner and respected by his colleagues. He is also a talented artist who lives for his work.
His latest project is Françoise Laville and she’s gagged in the shower, about to die. Because Achilles is the notorious serial killer who has been carving great works of art into the ‘canvas’ of his victims’ skin for five years.
But a copycat murder soon changes everything in his brutally ordered life. Naturally, Achilles is enraged by his imitator and will stop at nothing to find him. He is a practised hunter, but the hunt for the imposter will reveal dark secrets even he couldn’t have dreamt of. Will he survive the chase?
Eddie’s Boy (A Butcher’s Boy Novel) by Thomas Perry. Michael Shaeffer is a retired American businessman, living peacefully in England with his aristocratic wife. But her annual summer party brings strangers to their house, and with them, an attempt on Michael’s life. He is immediately thrust into action, luring his lethal pursuers to Australia before venturing into the lion’s den—the States—to figure out why the mafia is after him again, and how to stop them.
Eddie’s Boy jumps between Michael’s current predicament and the past, between the skillset he now ruthlessly and successfully employs and the training that made him what he is. We glimpse the days before he became the Butcher’s Boy, the highly skilled mob hit man who pulled a slaughter job on some double-crossing clients and started a mob war, to his childhood spent apprenticed to Eddie, a seasoned hired assassin. And we watch him pit two prominent mafia families against each other to eliminate his enemies one by one.
He’s meticulous in his approach, using his senior contact in the Organized Crime Division of the Justice Department for information, without ever allowing her to get too close to his trail. But will he be able to escape this new wave of young contract killers, or will the years finally catch up to him?
Fate by Zhou Haohui (December 10). The second book in China’s bestselling crime series to date. Last week, the vigilante killer who terrified and thrilled the city of Chengdu with his ‘death notices’ performed his own execution to escape capture by the police.
But when two students are violently murdered, the only clue left by the killer is a death notice. The executioner? Eumenides. Now Captain Pei Tao and his task force face a terrifying prospect: that Eumenides left a protégé to carry on his work.
Once again, Eumenides is one step ahead of their investigation – but this time, it’s worse. Because this time, someone on the inside is helping him. Can Pei and his team root out the mole, and hunt down their new opponent? Or are they doomed to watch history repeat itself?
I Am Pain by Ethan Cross. You don’t know the meaning of pain. Let me teach you. A father returns home to find that his family has been kidnapped. He can get them back – alive – if he agrees to pay the ransom. The price is simple: the life of an innocent.
Special Agent Marcus Williams is the only one who can stop the Coercion Killer. But to do so, he must first untangle his family’s dark past. A past that ties him to the infamous serial killer Francis Ackerman Jr.
Marcus knows that uniting with Francis will be dangerous. But the Coercion Killer has scarred their lives, and is poised to destroy many more. Sometimes stopping the worst of the worst is a job for the best of the bad.
Wedding Bear Blues by Meg Macy. At the Silver Bear Shop and Factory, Sasha will be selling plenty of bride and groom teddy bears come springtime. But this Valentine’s Day weekend, she’d take any of those silent, stuffed couples over the real thing. Sasha and her sister Maddie are bridesmaids at Cissy Davidson’s upcoming wedding in Silver Hollow.
Cissy is fuming over the worst choice of best man—the jerk who broke her sister Debbie’s heart—and the groom-to-be won’t budge in his decision. At the rehearsal dinner you could cut the tension with a wedding cake knife.
That is, until best man Dylan is found dead, impaled with an ice pick. Although jilted Debbie is the most likely suspect—the blood on her dress doesn’t help her case—the bride begs Sasha to prove her sister’s innocence. If anyone’s going to walk down the aisle, Sasha will first need to find the cold-hearted killer who iced Dylan.
To Fetch a Felon by Jennifer Hawkins. Emma leaves London and her life in high finance behind her and moves to an idyllic village in Cornwall, with its cobblestone streets and twisting byways. She plans to open a village tea shop and bake the recipes handed down to her from her beloved grandmother, and of course there’ll be plenty of space for her talking corgi, Oliver, to explore. Yes…talking. Emma has always been able to understand Oliver, even though no one else can.
As soon as Emma arrives in the village she discovers that the curmudgeonly owner of the building she wants to rent for her shop hates dogs and gets off on the wrong foot with Oliver.
Although some might turn tail and run, Emma is determined to win her over. But when she delivers some of her homemade scones as a peace offering, she finds the woman dead. Together, Emma and Oliver will need to unleash their detective skills to catch a killer.
The Substitute by John Catan (December 31). Dodging bullets and running from gunmen is not how Davyn Daeger normally spends his day.
Until recently, he was a socially awkward professor who preferred the solitude of the library. He wasn’t always this way, but a terrible accident four years earlier drove him into self-imposed isolation.
Now, he’s forced into the perilous world of espionage on a mission that only he can pull off. Davyn must do the unthinkable: go undercover and assume the role of a charismatic secret agent.
But, he’ll have the lovely Kaleo Sandalwood in his ear to guide him as he attempts to infiltrate the secret organization, find the enemy agents, pull off a rescue, and escape a remote island, all while being pursued, shot at, and, worst of all, hobnobbing at black-tie events.
A Hanging at Dawn (A Bess Crawford Short Story) by Charles Todd. Years before the Great War summoned Bess Crawford to serve as a battlefield nurse, the indomitable heroine spent her childhood in India under the watchful eye of her friend and confidant, the young soldier Simon Brandon.
The two formed an inseparable bond on the dangerous Northwest Frontier where her father’s Regiment held the Khyber Pass against all intruders. It was Simon who taught Bess to ride and shoot, escorted her to the bazaars and the Maharani’s Palace, and did his best to keep her out of trouble, after the Crawford family took an interest in the tall, angry boy with a mysterious past.
But the Crawfords have long guarded secrets for Simon and he owes them a debt that runs deeper than Bess could ever know. Told through the eyes of Melinda, Richard, Clarissa, and Bess, A Hanging at Dawn pieces together a mystery at the center of Bess’s family that will irrevocably change the course of her future.
Red Hands by Christopher Golden. A car plows through the crowd at a July 4th parade. The driver climbs out, sick and stumbling, reaching out…and everyone he touches drops dead within seconds.
Maeve Sinclair watches in horror as people she loves begin to die and she knows she must take action. But in the aftermath of this terror, it’s Maeve who possesses that killing touch. Fleeing into the mountains, struggling with her own grief and confusion, Maeve faces the dawning realization that she will never be able to touch another human being again.
“Weird s**t expert” Ben Walker is surprised to get a call from Alena Boudreau, director of the newly restructured Global Science Research Coalition. There’s an upheaval in the organization and she needs to send someone she can trust to Jericho Falls. Whoever finds Maeve Sinclair first will unravel the mystery of her death touch, and many are willing to kill her for that secret.
Walker’s assignment is to get her off the mountain alive. But as Maeve searches for a hiding place, hunted and growing sicker by the moment, she begins to hear an insidious voice in her head, and the yearning, the need… the hunger to touch another human being continues to grow. When Walker and Maeve meet at last, they will unravel a stunning legacy of death and betrayal, and a malignant secret as old as history.
If you’ve enjoyed this list, you can check out Mystery Tribune’s coverage of the best titles in mystery, crime fiction, thriller or horror sub-genres here in our Ultimate Reading Lists.