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The best mystery novels of 2023

THE WASHINGTON POST – It was a great year for mystery readers, with notable books by longtime-favourite authors and a crop of new voices whose stories added depth and breadth to the genre. Here are 10 titles that stood out.

PHOTO: ENVATO

THE BENEVOLENT SOCIETY OF ILL-MANNERED LADIES BY ALISON GOODMAN

Lady Augusta and Lady Julia Colebrook, 40-something twin sisters in 19th-Century England, may be dismissed as inconsequential old maids, but using their smarts, wealth and grit, they create a secret “benevolent society” focused on alleviating, one case at a time, the society-sanctioned maltreatment of women. Goodman skillfully blends mystery, adventure and a dash of romance in this first-of-a-series book.

BLOOD SISTERS BY VANESSA LILLIE

Syd Walker, a Cherokee archaeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Rhode Island returns to her native Oklahoma after her sister vanishes. Despite increasingly murderous attempts to stop her, Syd refuses to give up her quest to find her sister. Lillie, a member of the Cherokee Nation, presents a vividly written mystery centred on the real-life issue of the many missing and murdered Native American women.

THE BODY BY THE SEA BY JEAN-LUC BANNALEC

Commissaire Georges Dupin’s holiday plans are rudely interrupted when someone pushes a noted doctor out of a top-floor window in the French harbour city of Concarneau. As the cantankerous but brilliant Dupin searches for the killer, he uncovers hidden, cutthroat political and social rivalries that roil beneath the surface. In the end, it is Georges Simenon’s The Yellow Dog, a classic Maigret mystery set in Concarneau, that helps Dupin solve the case.

GLORY BE BY DANIELLE ARCENEAUX

This debut mystery introduces the unforgettable Glory Broussard, who decides to investigate the death of her best friend, Sister Amity Gay, after police call it a suicide. Glory, however, is certain it was murder, and she sets off, with the help of her lawyer daughter, to find the perpetrator, ignoring violent efforts by the top drug boss in Lafayette, Louisiana, to get her to drop the case.

HOLLOW BEASTS BY ALISA LYNN VALDÉS

When her husband suddenly dies, Boston academic Jodi Luna moves back to the rugged New Mexico wilderness where she was raised, and she trains to become a game warden. Jodi’s first case involves an extremist group, operating out of the nearby mountains, that kidnaps young minority women to torture and kill them as a political statement. Valdés, a native New Mexican, delivers a suspenseful tale highlighting issues of racism and white supremacy.

THE LAST DEVIL TO DIE BY RICHARD OSMAN

This fourth volume in Osman’s beloved Thursday Murder Club series, starring a quartet of septuagenarian sleuths, may be his best yet. Once again, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron must use their wits to track down a killer, but this time the danger they face also serves as a valuable distraction from a tragic situation close to home. Keep a hankie handy for this one.

THE LAST REMAINS BY ELLY GRIFFITHS

Griffiths offers readers a splendid parting gift as she concludes her popular series featuring English archaeologist/detective Ruth Galloway. In her final outing, Galloway must not only figure out the story behind a human skeleton discovered during the renovation of a cafe but also resolve her long-term, roller-coaster relationship with Chief Inspector Harry Nelson.

THE SUNSET YEARS OF AGNES SHARP BY LEONIE SWANN

With its wildly veering plot, witty writing and unconventional characters that include a tortoise and a dog named Brexit, The Sunset Years of Agnes Sharp reads more like a screwball comedy than a murder mystery. Don’t be fooled, however: There’s a murder – actually three of them – to be solved, and the elderly residents of an informal English retirement home called Sunset Hall are on the case. First published in German in 2020 and translated by Amy Bojang, Swann’s mystery is different, delightful
and deep.

SYMPHONY OF SECRETS BY BRENDAN SLOCUMB

The Violin Conspiracy author presents another page-turner exploring race, greed and obsession in the music world through two intertwined stories. The first, set in the 1920s, tells how a mediocre White composer named Frederick Delaney becomes famous when he passes off the extraordinary music of Josephine Reed, a neurodivergent Black woman, as his own. The second story takes place in the present, as two young Black researchers stumble on Delaney’s secret and vow to ensure that Reed gets the credit she deserves, thus becoming targets of the rich, powerful foundation Delaney created before his death.

VERA WONG’S UNSOLICITED ADVICE FOR MURDERERS BY JESSE Q SUTANTO

When 60-year-old widow Vera Wong finds a man’s body on the floor of her San Francisco teahouse, the police say it’s an accidental death. But the plain-spoken Vera firmly believes that the man was murdered, and she fearlessly sets out to find the killer, using her specially chosen teas and home-cooked meals as bait. As she did in her best-selling Dial A for Aunties, Sutanto uses her Indochinese heritage to add further interest to a fast-paced and often hilarious mystery.

 

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