Best thriller and mystery books of 2021

Maureen Corrigan & Richard Lipez

THE WASHINGTON POST – The settings and themes in 10 of the best mysteries and thrillers of 2021 were all over the place – fitting enough for a year of so much uncertainty and a far higher than normal rate of social chaos. What these terrific novels do have in common is a level of talent and craftsmanship that can compete with any Golden Age of crime fiction.

56 DAYS
BY CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD
Timely, surprising and emotionally alive, 56 Days is set mostly during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown in Dublin. Two vulnerable and insecure 20-somethings connect in an anxious, pandemic-limited, let’s-see-how-it-goes romance. Each, however, harbours a doozy of a secret, one of them bloodcurdling.

CLARK AND DIVISION
BY NAOMI HIRAHARA
It’s 1944 and Rose Ito is about to be reunited with her family after their release from an internment camp in California when she is run over by a subway train in Chicago and dies. Her younger sister scoffs at the coroner’s verdict of suicide and sets out to uncover the ugly truth.

DREAM GIRL
BY LAURA LIPPMAN
There are shades of Misery in Lippman’s witty, horror-tinged suspense novel. After an accident, novelist Gerry Andersen is stuck in his penthouse apartment, where he is tormented by letters and dead-of-night phone calls from a woman who claims to be the real-life heroine whose story Gerry appropriated for his breakthrough novel, also called Dream Girl.

A LINE TO KILL
BY ANTHONY HOROWITZ
Horowitz pokes fun at the literary community in this witty whodunit, set at a literary festival whose attendees include one Anthony Horowitz. When a festival-goer is fatally stabbed in the neck with a letter opener, the sleuthing begin.

A LONELY MAN
BY CHRIS POWER
Power, a literary critic in London, must have been thinking of Graham Greene’s The Third Man when he wrote this elegant suspense novel. A Lonely Man features a struggling writer drawn into playing detective in a foreign city whose grey apartment blocks and shadowy parks bear silent witness to greed, despair and murder.

NORTHERN SPY
BY FLYNN BERRY
Set in Northern Ireland in the final year of “the Troubles”, the novel centres on new mother and harried BBC News producer Tessa Daly. Her sister, Marian, might be an IRA bomb maker – or could she be an MI5 informer? Either way, the lovingly drawn Tessa is herself soon up to her lapsed neck in nightmarish intrigue.

THE PLOT
BY JEAN HANFF KORELITZ
The Plot centres on a failing novelist who steals a plot from another writer. The twists it takes from there are so ingenious that the book should be assigned as required reading in the very Master on Fine Arts programmes it pinions, both as a model of superior narrative construction and as a warning of the grim realities of the literary life to naive wannabe writers.

RAZORBLADE TEARS
BY SA COSBY
Two fathers join forces to track down the killers of their sons, gunned down on a Richmond street. The two aggrieved parents form a memorable bond as they seek vengeance for the deaths of their children.

SILVERVIEW
BY JOHN LE CARRÉ
Le Carré’s final novel, found in a drawer and finished by his novelist son, builds on themes Le Carré has developed so skillfully – betrayal, mendacity, bureaucratic inanity and our willingness to accept black-and-white explanations of a grey world.

SLEEP WELL, MY LADY
BY KWEI QUARTEY
Ghanaian American Kwei Quartey has another case for the sweetly crafty PI Emma Djan. In this tale, Emma and her colleagues at the Sowah detective agency must figure out why the glamorous Lady Araba has been murdered: Business, family or a long list of other reasons?