So, I did this post literally a year and 2 days ago where I talked about some of my all time fave murder mysteries. This time I wanted to do it again but focusing just on the books I read in 2020. I have mentioned many times how murder mysteries are one of my all time favourite genres and I really want to focus on some of the best this year.
Plot: The name’s Fetch Phillips — what do you need? Cover a Gnome with a crossbow while he does a dodgy deal? Sure. Find out who killed Lance Niles, the big-shot businessman who just arrived in town? I’ll give it shot. Help an old-lady Elf track down her husband’s murderer? That’s right up my alley. What I don’t do, because it’s impossible, is search for a way to bring the goddamn magic back. Rumors got out about what happened with the Professor, so now people keep asking me to fix the world. But there’s no magic in this story. Just dead friends, twisted miracles, and a secret machine made to deliver a single shot of murder.
Reasons Why I Loved It: At fifth place, is book 2 in the Fetch Phillips archives, Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold. I really enjoyed the first book, which I read at the very beginning of the year, so I was super excited to read the sequel and this was just such a step up from the first one. The world-building was increased and since all of the explaining and basic world building was done in book 1 this time round it didn’t feel as heavy handed. The reasoning behind the murder was so nuanced and full of many layers incorporating the past before the magic faded as well as keeping an eye on the future. It felt more impactful than the first book. Also, this book picked up and fixed some of the criticisms I had with the first book. It’s like it took everything that was good about the first book and improved it!
Plot: Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago. As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
Reasons Why I Loved It: In fourth place, is If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio. This book took me by surprise as I got confused and thought it was set in Shakespearian times rather than just a group of students studying Shakespeare. This book was way better than I imagined and I think this came down to truly how well Rio knew her characters. She has written her own Shakespearian tragedy with the same stereotypical characters we see from Shakespeare but puts a modern twist to it. She knew her characters so well and had mapped out their journey through this story so well. I loved exploring the different dynamics within the group as this group were so complex and complicated!
Plot: In the winter of 1937, the village of Okamura is abuzz with excitement over the forthcoming wedding of a son of the grand Ichiyanagi family. But amid the gossip over the approaching festivities, there is also a worrying rumour – it seems a sinister masked man has been asking questions around the village. Then, on the night of the wedding, the Ichiyanagi household are woken by a terrible scream, followed by the sound of eerie music. Death has come to Okamura, leaving no trace but a bloody samurai sword, thrust into the pristine snow outside the house. Soon, amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi is on the scene to investigate what will become a legendary murder case, but can this scruffy sleuth solve a seemingly impossible crime?
Reasons Why I Loved It: In third place, is the first book in the Detective Kosuke Kindaichi series, The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo. This was the second time I had read a novel by a Japanese author and I was super excited. Family and status are strong themes in this book and I really enjoyed reading how Yokomizo layered those themes throughout out the novel and made them the basis of big decisions for a variety of characters. The main character Detective Kindaichi was fantastic. I felt he was a great amount of serious and eccentric. I also really enjoyed the writing style, it wasn’t flowery it was very matter-of-fact and it felt like I was reading a case file which was really fun and different to what I am used to.
Plot: With these words, Lady Athelinda Playford — one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors — springs a surprise on the lawyer entrusted with her will. As guests arrive for a party at her Irish mansion, Lady Playford has decided to cut off her two children without a penny . . . and leave her vast fortune to someone else: an invalid who has only weeks to live. Among Lady Playford’s visitors are two strangers: the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited — until Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murder. But why does she seem so determined to provoke a killer? And why — when the crime is committed despite Poirot’s best efforts to stop it — does the identity of the victim make no sense at all?
Reasons Why I Loved It? In second place, is the second book in the New Hercule Poirot Mysteries, Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah. The characters in this book are so layered and complex. I was constantly guessing who the murderer could be throughout the novel as everything was up in the air. Another reason why I enjoyed it so much was because it was such an improvement from the first book. Some of the criticism I had been improved on them most importantly with the structuring of the novel. I felt that the first book wasn’t as well structured especially at the end and this time round I felt everything was a lot clearer for the reader to understand.
Plot: From the brothels and gin-shops of Covent Garden to the elegant townhouses of Mayfair, Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s Daughters of Night follows Caroline Corsham, as she seeks justice for a murdered woman whom London society would rather forget . . . Lucia’s fingers found her own. She gazed at Caro as if from a distance. Her lips parted, her words a whisper: ‘He knows.’ London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline ‘Caro’ Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly-paid prostitute, at which point they cease to care entirely. But Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself. Enlisting the help of thieftaker, Peregrine Child, their inquiry delves into the hidden corners of Georgian society, a world of artifice, deception and secret lives. But with many gentlemen refusing to speak about their dealings with the dead woman, and Caro’s own reputation under threat, finding the killer will be harder, and more treacherous than she can know . . .
Reasons Why I Loved It: In first place and my favourite murder mystery of the year is Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson! There was so much to praise about this book. The protagonist is such a strong willed woman and I enjoyed following her around. I felt the structuring of the novel was great, it helped with the pacing and help keep the mystery alive. I felt that the mystery itself was incredibly compelling and I just couldn’t put it down. I needed to know what happened and why. This book isn’t for the faint-hearted as a lot of triggers are in this book from sexual assault (not graphic), illness and murder.
So, there you have it! I have a lot of great murder mysteries coming up next year so I am super excited to see what the new year has to offer!