Random (but not really)

Monday, December 27, 2021

The Books of 2021: Mysteries

I read a lot of mysteries this year. Even more surprising, I read a lot of newly released mysteries.


Madison Square MurdersMadison Square Murders (2021) C.S. Poe (Memento Mori) 8.5/10

Police, LGBT

This is a new series in the same setting as the Snow & Winter series, with minor overlapping characters. Everett Larkin works on the NYC Cold Case Squad. He is an excellent detective, but an accident when he was a teenager changed his brain so that the past remains emotionally present for him. Forever.

If you know your romance tropes, this one is definintely grumpy/sunshine.

“Perhaps I’ve caught you at a bad time,” Joe suggested.

“You haven’t, I assure you.

One thing I struggled with was that the marriage of the main character was falling apart throughout the book. Which is rough going. Also, lots of triggers here for all kinds of dark things.

Yet, I did like it and can’t wait for the next one.

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No GoodAn Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good (2018) Helene Tursten translated by Marlaine Delargy 8.5/10


This book! Elderly woman kills people who annoy her!

(S)he had learned that it was smart not to reveal that all her senses were in full working order; instead, she allowed people to act in accordance with their own preconceptions.

Seriously. It’s about an old woman killing people who annoy her. You either want to read it based upon that, or there is no way you’ll ever read it.

Murder Most ActualMurder Most Actual (2021) Alexis Hall  8/10

Cozy, LGBT

Alexis Hall + Clue + Everyone is snowed in.

“Belloc’s an ass,” declared the colonel.

The door burst open.

“Oh, is he?” demanded Belloc, who Liza would have bet money had been waiting outside for the perfect moment to make a big entrance. “But I wonder, would the great Colonel Coleman have the courage to say this to Belloc’s face?”

The colonel stared at him. “You’re an ass.”

This is very much over-the-top, and very much delightful.

Mango Mambo and MurderMango, Mambo, and Murder (2021) Raquel V. Reyes (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery) 8/10

Cozy, Food

Miriam Quiñones-Smith has finished her PhD in food anthropology, but instead of becoming an author or education, she has moved back to Miami, where her husband was able to find a better paying job closer to support from his family.

“I’m a food anthropologist.”

“You dig up old food?” Ileana asked.

“No, I … I …” I’d never had it put that way before.

Although this is a murder mystery, it is also about Miriam finding her place in the world, both as a mother and daughter, and a woman whose life plans were upended and she has to decide who she wants to become.

Also, I now really wish there was a Cuban restaurant anywhere near me.

Arsenic and AdoboArsenic and Adobo (2021) Mia P. Manansala (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen) 8/10

Cozy, Food

Lila Macapagal has returned home both to reset her life after discovering her ex-fianace cheated, and also to help try to save the family restaurant.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been stared down by an elderly Asian woman, but It. Is. Terrifying. Don’t be fooled by the cute florals and jaunty visors— these women will end you, wielding nothing but their sharp tongues, bony elbows, and collapsible shopping carts.

Then (because this is a cozy) murder happens. Lots and lots of food described in loving detail here.

Poisoned PrimroseMotts Cold Case Mystery by Dahlia Donovan

Poisoned Primrose (2020) 8/10, Pierced Peony (2021) 8/10, Pickled Petunia (2021) 7.5/10

Cozy, LGBT

Despite her mother’s unhappiness about it, Motts moved to the cottage she inherited from her aunt and is making a go of living on her own for the first time. Being autistic and ace is complicated, but she has family and friends who love and look out for her.

“Hello. Please go away.”

“I brought a sack of chips and a chocolate bar.”

“Well, fine. Come in.”

Motts definitely does not search out crimes to investigate, and doesn’t particularly want to get involved, but when the situations are somewhat forced upon her, she becomes fascinated by the puzzles.

Model Citizen
Haven Investigations by Lissa Kasey

Model Citizen (2015) 8/10, Model Bodyguard (2016) 8.5/10, Model Investigator (2017) 9/10, Model Exposure (2017) 9/10

PI, LGBT, Romance, Boinking

There are books you love the entire time you’re reading them, and you finish that last page with happy sigh.

Then there are the books that you keep thinking about, weeks and months after you finished them. This series is in the latter category.

There is a lot of sex in this series. So it is definitely not for everyone. But it had plot twists that kept me guessing, and the characters just stuck with me, both the things they went through and survived, but also the way they learned to lean on each other and their found family for support.

This four-book PI series was full of twists and turns and unexpected routes.

It has tons of trigger warnings, but what I loved best was that the mental health aspects (which were many) were dealt with so well.

“You know that little questionnaire you get every time you go in? You’re supposed to answer that honestly, not mark what you think you should feel.”

I had thought it was just me. That it was my place to fix what was wrong with me. That I’d been given help and it was my fault it wasn’t working because I wasn’t trying hard enough.

After his brother’s death by suicide, Oliver took over the PI firm, putting his (very successful) modeling career on hold. But he is barely keeping his head above water, so one of his brother’s friends calls in another to help Oliver out.

This series has a LOT of sex, so it won’t be for a lot of people, but I really liked both the characters and the mystery.

A Ladys Guide to Etiquette and MurderA Countess of Harleigh Mystery by Dianne Freeman

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (2019) 8.5/10, A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (2020) 8/10, A Fiancée’s Guide to First Wives and Murder (2021) 8/10

Historical, Cozy

Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh has finally ended her mourning. However, since she was the spouse with the money, her in-laws don’t want her to leave, since she is all that is keeping the estates afloat.

“And how clever of you to have your own money.”

I chuckled. “The credit goes to my father. He set up this account although the Wynn family resented it at the time. They were rather offended at the idea of a wife having independent means— not the English way, you know.”

But when it begins to look like her husband’s death was not accidental, she is drawn into a mystery.

There is a delightful amount banter.

“I confess I had no idea what you were trying to tell me. Fortunately, your sister did.”

“I shall have to brush up on my skills,” he said with a sigh. “Or we could devise signals.”

I widened my eyes. “Or we could just speak to each other?”

“Well, if you insist on taking the easy route.”

And one of the things I especially like is that she doesn’t stumble blindly into situations but instead tries her best to keep out of danger.

Murder Most FairMurder Most Fair (2021) Anna Lee Huber (Verity Kent) 8.5/10


This is the best book in this series in a while. A lot of the things that were bugging me are starting to slowly get resolved.

“(W)ell, I thought I was managing it. Until clearly I wasn’t.”

Don’t start here is you have not read the series, but if you start to wonder if you should keep going once you’re in the series, the answer is yes.

Death at the Crystal PalaceDeath at the Crystal Palace (2021) Jennifer Ashley (A Below Stairs Mystery Book) 8/10

Historical, Cozy

Kat is a cook who has befriended the lady of the house, and so is far more involved in the lives of her betters than is necessarily good for her. But it is out of wanting to help those in need, rather than an overwhelming curiosity.

I was the same person, and yet in this dress and hat with a young man to handle the tickets for me, I suddenly deserved the conductor’s politeness. It made one think.

I’m very much enjoying this series.

Subtle Blood
Subtle Blood (2021) KJ Charles (The Will Darling Adventures) 8/10

Historical, LGBT, Romance, Boinking

Third book (and perhaps last?) of the series.

Will Darling came back from the War and struggled until meeting an uncle he didn’t know he had. When the uncle dies, leaving his bookstore to Will, he is inadvertently drawn into intrigue, and meets Kim, who has wealth and a name, and initially never tells Will the truth about anything.

It’s also (as are all KJ Charles books) full of wonderful dialog.

“You can’t expect me to take your word for things when I could work myself into a frenzy about them instead.”

This is not the place to start, but there are only two prior books, so it’s easy to get caught up, and then you can enjoy the intrigue and adventure.

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