Note: For our coverage of best crime, mystery, and thriller books of November and December of 2019, our lists can be viewed here and here.
What follows is our compiled list of latest and greatest for January 2020:
Facets of Death by Michael Stanley. A prequel to the award-winning Detective Kubu series. David Bengu has always stood out from the crowd. His personality and his physique match his nickname, Kubu—Setswana for “hippopotamus”—a seemingly docile creature, but one of the deadliest in Africa. His keen mind and famous persistence have seen him rise in the Botswana CID. But how did he get his start?
His resentful new colleagues are suspicious of a detective who has entered the CID straight from university, skipping the usual beat cop phase.
Shortly after he joins the CID, the richest diamond mine in the world is robbed of 100,000 carats of diamonds in transit. The robbery is well-executed and brutal. Police immediately suspect an inside job, but there is no evidence of who it could be.
When the robbers are killed execution-style in South Africa and the diamonds are still missing, the game changes, and suspicion focuses on a witch doctor and his son. Does “Kubu” have the skill and the integrity to engineer an international trap and catch those responsible, or will the biggest risk of his life end in disaster?
e match his nickname, Kubu—Setswana for “hippopotamus”—a seemingly docile creature, but one of the deadliest in Africa. His keen mind and famous persistence have seen him rise in the Botswana CID. But how did he get his start?
Inauspiciously. His resentful new colleagues are suspicious of a detective who has entered the CID straight from university, skipping the usual beat cop phase. Nearly broke, with no car or wife, Kubu has the support of his parents, but success will depend on self-reliance. He is immediately plunged into investigations at two airports.
One takes him to the airport near Gaborone where something criminal is going on in baggage claim.
The other begins at Jwaneng Airport, where a plane bursts into flames. It’s the opening move in a brutal heist of stones from the world’s richest diamond mine. The robbers die in a shoot-out, but the diamonds remain missing. So who masterminded the crime? Rumors of a witch doctor’s involvement send the detectives down a dark path. Ultimately, new recruit Kubu finds himself engineering a risky trap. Will his first major case prove his worth—or kill his career?
The Rabbit Hunter by Lars Kepler. This is one of our favorite Scandinavian crime novels for January 2020 written by the critically acclaimed husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril.
It begins with a nursery rhyme. Nineteen minutes later you die.
A masked stranger stands in the shadows. He watches his victim through the window. He will kill him slowly—make him pay.
Soon the Rabbit Hunter has claimed another three victims. This predator will stop at nothing to reap his ultimate revenge. It’s up to Joona Linna and Saga Bauer to untangle one of the most complex cases of their career, and follow the killer’s trail of destruction back to one horrific night of violence.
First Cut by Judy Melinek, M.D.; T.J. Mitchell. For San Francisco’s newest medical examiner, Dr. Jessie Teska, it was supposed to be a fresh start. A new job in a new city. A way to escape her own dark past.
Instead she faces a chilling discovery when an opioid-overdose case contains hints of something more sinister. Jessie’s superiors urge her to close the case, but as more bodies land on her autopsy table, she uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate plot involving drug dealers and Bitcoin brokers.
Drawing on her real-life experiences as a forensics expert, Judy Melinek teams up with husband T.J. Mitchell to deliver the most exhilarating mystery of the year. Autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she has seen it all—even if it means that the next corpse on the table could be her own.
Too Close to Home by Andrew Grant. His cover: courthouse janitor. His cause: justice. But when Paul McGrath uncovers a shocking connection to a file of missing evidence, he finds the truth sometimes hits a little too close to home.
An intelligence agent-turned-courthouse janitor, Paul McGrath notices everything and everyone—but no one notices him. It’s the perfect cover for the justice he seeks for both his father and the people who’ve been wronged by a corrupt system. Now he’s discovered a missing file on Alex Pardew—the man who defrauded and likely murdered McGrath’s father but avoided conviction, thanks in large part to the loss of this very file. And what lies behind its disappearance is even worse than McGrath had feared.
Meanwhile, at the courthouse, he stumbles on the case of Len Hendrie, a small businessman who’s been accused of torching a venture capitalist’s mansion. Though Hendrie admits starting the fire, McGrath learns how the VC has preyed on average Joes to benefit himself—and his extensive wine collection. McGrath can’t resist looking deeper into this financial predator and soon finds himself in a gray area between his avenging moral compass and the limits of the law.
Then, just as the Hendrie case is heating up, McGrath receives word of the death of his father’s former housekeeper, sending him back to his family home to confront unfinished business from his past. And he’s about to find some unwelcome truths about the mother he lost as a child—and the father who hid even more secrets than he realized.
In the Shadow of Vesuvius: A Lady Emily Mystery by Tasha Alexander. This is a favorite January 2020 pick for historical mystery fans. In skillfully intertwined storylines from the dawn of the twentieth century and the heyday of the Roman Empire, Tasha Alexander’s In the Shadow of Vesuvius, the latest installment to her bestselling series, brings Lady Emily and her husband to Pompeii, where they uncover a recent crime in the ancient city.
Some corpses lie undisturbed longer than others. But when Lady Emily discovers a body hidden in plain sight amongst the ruins of Pompeii, she sets in motion a deadly chain of events that ties her future to the fate of a woman whose story had been lost for nearly two thousand years.
Emily and her husband, Colin Hargreaves, have accompanied her dear friend Ivy Brandon on a trip to Pompeii. When they uncover a corpse and the police dismiss the murder as the work of local gangsters, Emily launches an investigation of her own. She seems to be aided by the archaeologists excavating the ruins, including a moody painter, the enigmatic site director, and a free-thinking American capable of sparring with even the Duke of Bainbridge. But each of them has secrets hiding among the ruins.
The sudden appearance of a beautiful young woman who claims a shocking relationship to the Hargreaves family throws Emily’s investigation off-course. And as she struggles to face an unsettling truth about Colin’s past, it becomes clear that someone else wants her off the case—for good. Emily’s resolve to unearth the facts is unshakable. But how far below the surface can she dig before she risks burying herself along with the truth?
A View to a Kilt by Kaitlyn Dunnett. A great cozy mystery pick for January 2020. A series of blizzards have kept tourists away from Moosetookalook, Maine, and shoppers out of Liss MacCrimmon’s Scottish Emporium. But as warmer weather brings promises of tartan sales and new faces, melting snow reveals cold-blooded murder.
Liss has suddenly found herself in charge of the March Madness Mud Season Sale, a town-wide celebration created to boost the local economy during the slushy weeks of early spring. With businesses ailing after a rough winter, the pressure is on to make this year’s effort the can’t-miss-event of the season. But before Liss can get her hands dirty, her husband makes a horrifying discovery. There’s a dead man on their property, and he didn’t die of natural causes.
Stunned by the murder mystery developing in her own backyard, Liss receives another shock. The victim is identified as Charlie MacCrimmon, an uncle believed to have died eleven years before Liss was born. No one has seen or heard from Charlie since he went off to fight in Vietnam. What secrets could he have been hiding for so many years, and who would want to kill a man long thought to be dead?
Enlisting the help of her family, Liss uncovers more questions than answers as she delves into her uncle’s murky past. One thing is clear—before he met his end, Uncle Charlie was desperately trying to warn her about something sinister. And unless Liss can soon track down a maniacal criminal as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster, she just might be the next MacCrimmon to disappear.
The Missing American by Kwei Quartey. Accra private investigator Emma Djan’s first missing persons case will lead her to the darkest depths of the email scams and fetish priests in Ghana, the world’s Internet capital.
When her dreams of rising through the Accra police ranks like her late father crash around her, 26-year-old Emma Djan is unsure what will become of her career. Through a sympathetic former colleague, Emma gets an interview with a private detective agency that takes on cases of missing persons, theft, and infidelity. It’s not the future she imagined, but it’s herbest option.
Meanwhile, Gordon Tilson, a middle-aged widower in Washington, DC, has found solace in an online community after his wife’s passing. Through the support group, he’s even met a young Ghanaian widow he’s come to care about. When her sister gets into a car accident, he sends her thousands of dollars to cover the hospital bill—to the horror of his only son, Derek.
Then Gordon decides to surprise his new love by paying her a visit—and disappears. Fearing for his father’s life, Derek follows him across the world to Ghana, Internet capital of the world, where he and Emma will find themselves deep in a world of sakawa scams, fetish priests, and those willing to kill to protect their secrets.
Hi Five (An IQ Novel: Book 4) by Joe Ide. One woman. Five personalities. Private investigator IQ is back to piece together a Newport Beach murder with an eyewitness who gives “people person” a whole new meaning.
Cristiana is the daughter of the biggest arms dealer on the West Coast, Angus Byrne. She’s also the sole witness and number one suspect in the murder of her boyfriend, found dead in her Newport Beach boutique. Isaiah Quintabe is coerced into taking the case to prove her innocence. If he can’t, Angus will harm the brilliant PI’s new girlfriend, ending her career.
The catch: Christiana has multiple personalities. Among them, a naïve, beautiful shopkeeper, an obnoxious drummer in a rock band, and a wanton seductress.
Isaiah’s dilemma: no one personality saw the entire incident. To find out what really happened the night of the murder, Isaiah must piece together clues from each of the personalities . . . before the cops close in on him.
Much Ado about Nutmeg by Sarah Fox. Wedding bells are in the air—along with the aroma of maple syrup—in the latest Pancake House Mystery. But a series of murders threatens to spoil everyone’s appetite.
Between tourist season, planning her beach wedding, and running her pancake house, the Flip Side, Marley McKinney is busier than ever. On top of that, one of her regulars is competing in Wildwood Cove’s Golden Oldies Games—a sporting event for athletes 50 and over—and Marley wants to cheer her on. Everything’s running as smooth as batter—until sports reporter Yvonne Pritchard stirs up a triple batch of trouble.
Yvonne has one admirer in town—Ed Herman—but she has many more enemies, from a disgruntled coach to an athlete she once shamed on social media. So when a body washes up on shore, and it’s no accident, it’s not a complete surprise Yvonne is the victim. And when Ed asks Marley to use her sleuthing skills to solve the crime, she’ll have to squeeze in time between squeezing into wedding dresses. Then a second victim turns up, and Marley will have to work at high speed to stop a killer from piling up bodies faster than she can whip up a tall stack.
Into the Fire (An Orphan X Novel) by Gregg Hurwitz. The New York Times bestselling Orphan X returns – just when Evan Smoak thinks he’s done, his deadliest job yet pulls him back Into The Fire. Evan Smoak lives by his own code.
Once he was known as Orphan X. Trained as an off-the-books government assassin and spoken about only in whispers, Evan Smoak was one of the most talented – and most feared – men in the Program. But he broke free and reinvented himself as The Nowhere Man, a figure shrouded in mystery, known for helping the truly desperate. If anyone is truly desperate, it’s Max Merriweather.
Max is at the end of his rope. His cousin has been brutally murdered, leaving Max an envelope that contains nothing but a mysterious key. However, someone really wants that key, badly enough that Max – and anyone he turns to – is in deadly danger. What seems like a simple job for The Nowhere Man turns out to be anything but. Behind every threat he takes out, a deadlier one emerges and Evan Smoak must put himself in greater danger than ever before as he heads once more Into The Fire.
When You See Me by Lisa Gardner. #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner unites three of her most beloved characters—Detective D. D. Warren, Flora Dane, and Kimberly Quincy—in a twisty new thriller, as they investigate a mysterious murder from the past…which points to a dangerous and chilling present-day crime.
FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. When a disturbing piece of evidence is discovered in the hills of Georgia, they bring Flora Dane and true-crime savant Keith Edgar to a small town where something seems to be deeply wrong.
What at first looks like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister…and they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed. Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers—and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others.
Upon returning to New York City after a whirlwind British excursion, Stone Barrington is notified of a delicate situation within the country’s administration. A close friend requires his expertise and subtlety to eradicate a destructive presence in a classified agency–only it soon becomes clear that this renegade was sent by a rival Stone has encountered before.
From the City of Light to the rocky Maine coastline, Stone will need to summon all his wit and daring to halt the audacious plots threatening to reveal confidential intel, and catch the evasive traitor at last. This enemy may be equipped with unlimited resources and devious schemes, but if Stone remains vigilant, justice may finally prevail.
The Vanishing (Fogg Lake Book 1) by Jayne Ann Krentz. From New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz comes a gripping new romantic suspense trilogy fraught with danger and enigma.
Decades ago in the small town of Fogg Lake, The Incident occurred: an explosion in the cave system that released unknown gases. The residents slept for two days. When they woke up they discovered that things had changed—they had changed. Some started having visions. Others heard ominous voices.
And then, scientists from a mysterious government agency arrived. Determined not to become research subjects of strange experiments, the residents of Fogg Lake blamed their “hallucinations” on food poisoning, and the story worked. But now it has become apparent that the eerie effects of The Incident are showing up in the descendants of Fogg Lake.…
Catalina Lark and Olivia LeClair, best friends and co-owners of an investigation firm in Seattle, use what they call their “other sight” to help solve cases. When Olivia suddenly vanishes one night, Cat frantically begins the search for her friend. No one takes the disappearance seriously except Slater Arganbright, an agent from a shadowy organization known only as the Foundation, who shows up at her firm with a cryptic warning.
A ruthless killer is hunting the only witnesses to a murder that occurred in the Fogg Lake caves fifteen years ago—Catalina and Olivia. And someone intends to make both women vanish.
Pike Logan tracks highly-trained Russian assassins to Brazil in this blistering, action-packed thriller from New York Times bestselling author and former Special Forces Officer Brad Taylor.
Pike Logan and the Taskforce were once the apex predators, an unrivaled hunting machine that decimated those out to harm the United States, but they may have met their match. While Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill prepare to join their team on a counter-terrorist mission in the triple frontier—the lawless tri-border region where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet—they are targeted in Charleston, South Carolina.
A vicious explosion kills a friend, and the perpetrators have set it up to look like an accident. While the authorities believe this was not foul play, Pike knows the attack was meant for him.
When he loses contact with the team in South America, Pike is convinced he and the Taskforce are under assault. His men are the closest thing to family that Pike has, which means he will do anything, even ignore direct orders to stand down, to find them. Pike and Jennifer head to Brazil to investigate their disappearance and run headlong into a crew of Russian assassins. Within days they are entangled in a byzantine scheme involving Brazilian politics and a cut-throat battle for control of offshore oil fields.
Forged in combat, the Russians are the equal of anything the Taskforce has encountered before, but they make a mistake in attacking Pike’s team, because Pike has a couple of elite Israeli assassins of his own. And Pike will stop at nothing to protect his family.
Naked Came the Florida Man: A Novel (Serge Storms) by Tim Dorsey. The “compulsively irreverent and shockingly funny” (Boston Globe) Tim Dorsey returns with an insanely entertaining tale in which the inimitable Serge A. Storms sees dead people and investigates a creepy urban myth that may be all too real.
Though another devastating hurricane is raking Florida, its awesome power can’t stop the Sunshine State’s most loyal son, Serge A. Storms, from his latest scenic road trip: a cemetery tour. With his best bro Colman riding shotgun, Serge hits the highway in his ’69 gold Plymouth Satellite, putting pedal to the metal on a grand tour of the past.
Beginning in Key West, the sunshine boys’ odyssey includes a forgotten mass grave in Palm Beach county holding the remains of African Americans killed by the Great Hurricane of 1928, and the resting place of one world-famous television dolphin (RIP Flipper) from the 1960s.
But one deadland—a haunted old sugar field—holds more than just the bones of those who’ve passed. For years, local children have whispered about a boogeyman hiding among the stalks. Could it be the same maniac known as Naked Florida man who’s been raising hell all over the place?
There are few things Serge loves more than solving a good mystery and bestowing justice on miscreants who sully his beloved home’s good name. With his partner bong boy, Florida’s psycho superhero will find the truth in this hilariously violent delight—packed with history, lore, and plenty of motel antics—from the insanely ingenious Tim Dorsey.
The Wild One (A Peter Ash Novel) by Nick Petrie. Losing ground in his fight against post-traumatic claustrophobia, war veteran Peter Ash has no intention of getting on an airplane–until a grieving woman asks Peter to find her eight-year-old grandson. The woman’s daughter has been murdered. Erik, the dead daughter’s husband, is the sole suspect, and he has taken his young son and fled to Iceland for the protection of Erik’s lawless family.
Finding the boy becomes more complicated when Peter is met at the airport by a man from the United States Embassy. For reasons both unknown and unofficial, it seems that Peter’s own government doesn’t want him in Iceland. The police give Peter two days of sightseeing in Reykjavik before he must report back for the first available seat home. . . and when they realize Peter isn’t going home until he accomplishes his mission, they start hunting him, too.
From the northernmost European capital to a rustbound fishing vessel to a remote farm a stone’s throw from the arctic, Peter must confront his growing PTSD and the most powerful Icelandic snowstorm in a generation to find a killer, save an eight-year-old boy, and keep himself out of an Icelandic prison–or a cold Icelandic grave.