For many years I volunteered at my "home" independent bookseller, Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC. My official duty was wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve, but I frequently wandered over to the nearby mystery section to offer suggestions for last minute gifts. I'm unable to volunteer in-store this year, but I thought I'd suggest some of my recent reads that would make great reads for your gift-giving—to others and to yourself.
World War II Settings
Escape from Paris by Carolyn Hart (Oconee Spirit Press LLC)
In Carolyn's words, This, "is the story of a year of war, the year that France fell to the Germans and England awaited invasion. It is also the story of people around the world, touched by war." The fictional story is laid over real history.
Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause by Mignon F. Ballard (Minotaur)
This sequel to Miss Dimple Disappears tells the stories of folks in a small Georgia town and their efforts to support the cause while dealing with crimes during a fund raiser.
Louise's War by Sarah Shaber (Severn House)
Murder and intrigue in the OSS Office in Washington DC.
Physical Education by Maggie Marbieri (Minotaur)
This "Murder 101 Mystery" features a liberal English professor at a small, conservative Catholic college who has a propensity for finding bodies—on and off campus. Fortunately, the Bronx is large enough to escape the Cabot Cove syndrome.
Skating Over the Line by Joelle Charbonneau (Minotaur)
Some reviewers compare this series to that of Janet Evanovich; I think it's more believable—and there's a wonderful, hat-wearing, retired circus camel.
To Catch a Leaf by Kate Collins (Obsidian)
Planning a wedding, running a florist, and keeping her assistant out of jail for murder give Abby Knight all she can handle in the 12th outing in this strong cozy series.
British Village Traditional
Wicked Autumn by G. M. Malliet (Minotaur)
Everyone will know who's going to be killed during the Harvest Fayre, but whodunit is what drives this first in series featuring former MI5 agent-turned vicar Max Tudor. Dame Agatha would be proud.
Ranchero by Rick Gavin (Minotaur)
Self-deprecating repo man Nick Reid could be in over his head but he keeps rising to the top in this hilarious look at Mississippi Delta crime.
North Carolina Favorites
Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)
Fans have begged for this: Judge Deborah Knott and Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant finally meet NY Homicide Lieutenant Sigrid Harald when the newlyweds take a delayed honeymoon trip to New York City. Guess who's in charge of the investigation of the murder at the apartment next door? A wonderful blend of Maron's series characters.
Under the Skin by Vicki Lane (Dell)
Lane left us hanging on the proverbial cliff in the Elizabeth Goodnight series when she wrote a well-received stand-alone, The Day of Small Things. This resolution was worth waiting for as all questions are answered—but not before a whole new crop of crimes appear on the mountain. As always, there's a fascinating mystery set in the past, this one in 1887 about spiritualists, related to the contemporary story.
Rizzo's Fire by Lou Manfredo (Minotaur)
The sequel to Rizzo's War follows NYPD veteran Joe Rizzo as he nears retirement. Much like the late Dell Shannon and Ed McBain, Manfredo features not only one major, over-arching crime, but the several other crimes that make up the weeks of the novel. Rizzo's mantra continues: "There's no wrong. There's no right. There just is."
Ghost Hero by S. J. Rozan (Minotaur)
Chinese-American PI Lydia Chin accepts an unusual assignment—to track down rumored new paintings of Chinese artist and political activist Chau Chun, who's been dead for 20 years. Investigating the "Ghost Hero" works takes Lydia and her partner Bill Smith into a new area—the high dollar art world. Clever glimpses of humor enliven this engaging mystery.
Northwest Angle by William Kent Kruger (Atria)
The latest outing in one of the few series I suggest reading from the beginning takes Cork O'Connor on a planned vacation of healing with his family. Their leisurely houseboat trip is interrupted by a deadly derecho (a unique storm system generating straight-line winds of hurricane force) that is just the beginning of several days of terror. Kruger never disappoints.
Damage Control by Denise Hamilton (Scribner)
High-powered public relations executive Maggie Silver learns the meaning of the phrase "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely" when she tries to spin the story of the murder of a California senator's aide. Complicating her efforts are her mother's illness, her former relationship with the senator's family, and her growing dissolution with her job.
Lassiter by Paul Levine (Bantam)
Even "second-string linebacker turned low-rent lawyer" Jake Lassiter isn't immune to repercussions from his past. After a woman accuses Jake of being the last person to see her sister alive (18 years ago) he feels morally obligated to defend her of murder. The case is complicated, sordid, and impossible to put down.
FTC Disclaimer - Most of these books were supplied by the publishers.