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Friday, December 29, 2023

The Books of 2023: Mystery

I love mysteries–this is one of the years where I read more mysteries than anything else (the last time was 2016). I’d say more than half of those were historical mysteries, however, you’ll want to note that my rereads of both Agatha Christie and Robert B Parker are categorized as historicals.

Why do I consider the Spenser books historicals? Because the world was a very different place in the 70s and 80s, as unrecognizable to today’s kids as the post WWII stories of Agatha Christie were to me as a kid.


The Price of Lemon Cake

The Price of Lemon Cake (2023) by Jennifer Ashley

Queer, Historical novella

This is a short story in which Kat Holloway makes an appearance; it features Bobby, a secondary character in the series.

“You’d be astounded how much people see only what they wish to see. And anyway, I look so much like a bloke, no one has ever tumbled to me no matter where I go.”

You should be able to read this if you have not read the rest of the series.


Rating: 7.5/10

Kat Holloway: A Soupçon of Poison (2015), Death Below Stairs (2018), Scandal Above Stairs (2018), Death in Kew Gardens (2019), Murder in the East End (2020), Death at the Crystal Palace (2021), The Secret of Bow Lane (2022), The Price of Lemon Cake (2023)

A Newlywed's Guide to Fortune and Murder

A Newlywed’s Guide to Fortune and Murder (2023) by Dianne Freeman


This is a fun series set at the end of the 1800s that is fun and generally cozy, with marvelous characters, and a heroine who does not purposefully do stupid / dangerous things.

This is one of the weaker entries in the series, but it was still enjoyable.

Published by Kensington Books

Rating: 7.5/10

Countess of Harleigh: A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder (2018), A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (2019), A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (2020), A Fiancée’s Guide to First Wives and Murder (2021), A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder (2022), A Newlywed’s Guide to Fortune and Murder (2023)

The Rise: A Short Story

The Rise: A Short Story (2023) by Ian Rankin

I keep meaning to reread the Rebus series, but I don’t necessarily want to start with the first book, so while decided where I’d like to jump in, I keep reading something else.

This is NOT a Rebus story, in fact it doesn’t have a single character I recognize, so it is truly a stand-alone story.

It was extremely well done and I highly recommend it, although I expected as much from Ian Rankin.

Published by Amazon Original Stories

Rating: 8/10

A Fatal Illusion

A Fatal Illusion (2023) by Anna Lee Huber

Historical, Queer

This is another long-running historical mystery series.

This book immediately follows the events of the previous book, although you don’t need to have read that to follow and enjoy the mystery. I very much appreciate that although Kira and Sebastian are both happy in their marriage, it is clear that things aren’t always simple or easy, even in a happy marriage. It’s always growth and change.

“Just because you’re willing to forgive someone doesn’t mean you also have to give them leave to continue hurting you,”

The difficult parent-adult child relationship was somewhat difficult for me to read, but I appreciate that things haven’t been magically fixed between Sebastian and his father.

Published by Berkley

Rating: 8/10

Lady Darby: The Anatomist’s Wife (2012), Mortal Arts (2013), A Grave Matter (2014), A Study in Death (2015), A Pressing Engagement (2016), As Death Draws Near (2016), A Brush with Shadows (2018), An Artless Demise (2019), A Stroke of Malice (2020), A Wicked Conceit (2021), A Perilous Perspective (2022), A Fatal Illusion (2023)

Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek (2022) by Josh Lanyon

Queer, Romance, Boinking

This is a returning home to a small town and finding the love you left behind story, only with multiple twists and murder.


Rating: 8/10

Secrets Typed in Blood

Secrets Typed in Blood (2022) Stephen Spotswood

Historical, Queer

This is another book that I think will have a higher rating on a reread–I love the historical elements of this story set in post WWII NYC, and the characters.

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Pentecost & Parker: Fortune Favors the Dead (2020), Murder Under Her Skin (2021), Secrets Typed in Blood (2022)

Mystery on the Menu: A Three-Course Collection of Cozy Mysteries

Mystery on the Menu: A Three-Course Collection of Cozy Mysteries (2023) by Nicole Kimberling

Queer, Romance, Boinking

Nicole Kimberling’s books have all been several related shorter stories, and this follows that trend.

There are three intertwined novellas with a murder at the center of each story, plus a romance between the main character and the local law.

And some amazing secondary characters.

“What a perfect place to hold a wedding,” Julie remarked. Then, to Evelyn, “Darling! We should renew our vows.”

“As far as I know they haven’t expired,” was all Evelyn had to say on that subject.

There is something about Nicole Kimberling’s mysteries that really works for me, but I’m not sure precisely what it is.

Published by One Block Empire

Rating: 8.5/10

Lily Adler Mysteries by Katharine Schellman

The Body in the Garden Silence in the Library Death at the Manor Murder at Midnight

The Body in the Garden (2020) 8/10
Silence in the Library (2021) 9/10
Death at the Manor (2022) 8/10
Murder at Midnight (2023) 8.5/10

Historical, Queer

This is one of the most inclusive historical mystery series I’ve ever read. There are children of men who served in India and married while there, injured war veterans, neurodiversity, and queer characters, all presented in as historically accurate a manner as the author could make it.

“Plenty of Lascars in the navy, but precious few of them made post captain, eh!” The admiral chuckled. “And what was it the Indian fellows began calling you in response?”

“Captain English.” Jack grinned, though Lily noticed the lines of strain around his mouth. “Forever betwixt and between, I am.”

The mysteries are interesting, the characters are all strong and interesting, and I love that each story tries to fit a different mystery trope (locked room, trapped with a murderer, etc)

The only bad thing is I’ve already read all the books available.

Published by Crooked Lane Books

Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club The Man Who Died Twice The Bullet That Missed The Last Devil to Die

The Thursday Murder Club (2020) 9/10
The Man Who Died Twice (2021) 9/10
The Bullet That Missed (2022) 9/10
The Last Devil to Die (2023) 9/10

These stories are delightful. Truly. They are fun romps that don’t hesitate to go right over the top but aren’t ridiculous.

“Would you like the detailed answer, or the simple answer?” asks Ibrahim.

“The simple answer, please, Ibrahim,” says Elizabeth, without hesitation.

Ibrahim pauses. Perhaps he had phrased his question poorly? “But I have prepared a detailed answer, Elizabeth.”


Published by Viking

The Books of 2023: Yearly Reading Roundup

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