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Top 25 Best Mystery Books of 2015

Top 25 Best Mystery Books of 2015

Every year brings with it some awesome Mystery books. But there's so many books released, that's it's hard to keep track what's hot and what's not. While it's half way through 2016 at time of this list, you still might want to catch up on those 2015 books you haven't read just yet.

To make things easier, here's our detailed selection for what we considered the best mystery books of 2015 -- that is, the top 25 mystery books that were published in 2015.

We looked at hundreds of books across all the different mystery sub-genres to compile this list. If you feel we've missed a 2015 book, please let us know in the comments. Don't just take our own list ordering though -- make sure you check out the PUBLICLY ranked version of the list in which the public votes and the list order is influenced by that.

This book is actually a collection of seven novels by women writing in the 1940s and 1950s, creating a new subgenre entitled domestic noir. These books came of age during the hypermasculine era of James Bond and Mike Hammer, and as a result, they did not receive as much critical attention as they should have. Most were written as standalones, even though series mysteries tend to get the biggest followings. As a result, the women authors did not get their just due then or now. Weinman's efforts have shone a bright light on what has been an ignored area of the genre, and the attention is well-deserved.

Why It Made the List

It's the first time that a group of women mystery authors has been so honored by the Library of America and follows on the heels of Weinman's anthology of short stories by these same authors. While the idea of recognizing these women has been around since Atomic Renaissance in 2003, it's only been due to Weinman's efforts that the domestic noir subgenre has taken off in the past two years.

'Read It If You Like'

women authors, domestic noir, suspense in the home and family

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The story has two intertwined plot lines. The private investigator lost his wife to a murder several years ago. The killer was never identified or tried. As a result, the investigator continues to track every lead on the case no matter how small, and no matter the methods needed to do it. As punishment for his latest transgression in following the case, he's sent to a small town in Indiana. Several years ago a girl went missing and sometime later a man had carried her body out of a cave. He claimed to have no recollection of the events or what led up to those events. He's the one who wants the matter investigated and is willing to go to jail if the investigator learns that he was indeed responsible for the crime. However, the town is hostile and it will take digging to get to the truth.

Why It Made the List

Koryta is an extremely versatile writer, finding audiences for horror, supernatural and mystery novels. He began with a private investigator in Ohio, so his knowledge of the region and its people is exceptional.

'Read It If You Like'

Midwest settings, private investigators, old crimes

Books in Mark Novak Series (2)

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Cassie Newell, who has appeared in an earlier Box novel set in Montana, is back. She's moved to the oil capital of North Dakota, a small town called Grimstead. Along with the money that oil brings, the change in the town's status has brought along a new set of crimes and criminals. Kyle, a middle school student who struggles, sees a car accident and discovers a bundle full of money and drugs. Of course, the criminals want it back and will stop at nothing to get it. That means that Kyle is in trouble, and Cassie Newell, who is a new deputy in town, will have to find out who has the cash before the criminals do and protect the child with the full force of the law. Box is known for depicting some of his most climatic scenes set against the weather of the Plains, and this occurs here where the temperatures can drop to 30 below zero.

Why It Made the List

CJ Box is known for his stories set in the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountain states. He combines the plight of children and criminals who stop at nothing to get what they want. It's no surprise that his books have been nominated and won a number of awards.

'Read It If You Like'

drugs related crimes, children in jeopardy, the Dakotas, women police officers

Books in Cassie Dewell Series (2)

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Tess has a new client that she's not sure about. Melisandre Harris Dawes killed her child years ago, was acquitted of the crime by reason of insanity and ran away to Europe, leaving her other children with their father. Melisandre left her baby locked in a hot car while she sat and thought on the beach. She returns to Baltimore to reconnect with her daughters, but her plan is more self-serving than that. She's also brought a camera crew to record the moment for a documentary she hopes to sell. When another murder is committed and Melisandre is a suspect in that crime, Tess has to solve that crime. In the meantime, Tess is also the mother to a small child, and the case cuts closer to the bone that she'd care to admit.

Why It Made the List

Lippman continues to write diverse crime novels that focus on the lives of her protagonists beyond the impact of the crime on their daily existence. She does this through standalones and a series of private eye novels featuring Tess Monaghan.

'Read It If You Like'

character studies, female private eyes, Baltimore-based mysteries

Books in Tess Monaghan Series (12)

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Set against a real life story of a coal mining disaster in West Virginia, the book tells the story of Royce Dillard, who was a baby when the accident occurred. He lost his parents and grew up to live off the grid with only his dogs for company. He's been something of a recluse, avoiding the citizens of town. Then he's accused of murder, in a crime dating back to those days when he lost his parents. The main character of the series is Bell Elkins, who is the lead prosecutor for the town, and is assigned to the Dillard case. She wants to find out more about the motivation of the man and his reasons for the crime, which tie back to corporate greed and the lack of accountability in corporate life.

Why It Made the List

This series just keeps getting better. Elkins has empathy for the people she must prosecute, and this leads to fascinating character studies of the defendants who have been brought to court to face justice. In this case, the question of corporate greed and responsibility are a large part of the case, since there was a mining accident that left over 100 people dead.

'Read It If You Like'

Appalachian stories, murder trials, crimes from long ago, vengeance stories

Books in Bell Elkins Series (5)

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Harry Bosch is at loose ends. He's retired from the Los Angeles Police Department, and has too much time on his hands. So he's happy when his half-brother (and other series of Michael Connelly) Mickey Haller asks him to look into a case for him. Since Mickey is the lawyer working on Bosch's case against the LAPD for forcing him out, he feels compelled to help, even though it means working for the defense now rather than the prosecution. He gets some help from his former partner, but mostly he's on his own. It's a different world for Bosch, since he has no legal standing to ask questions and expect answers, and the answers he does receive make him think that perhaps the LAPD is involved in the murder case.

Why It Made the List

Harry Bosch is now an Amazon TV series, featuring Titus Welliver as the LAPD detective. The show was renewed for a second series, so expect to see more of this character. The book series is wildly popular and has won a number of awards over the years.

'Read It If You Like'

police procedurals, legal thrillers, combining two separate series characters, Los Angeles based thrillers

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This book is actually a prequel to the long- running Inspector Ian Rutledge series of mysteries. Most of those stories are told between the two world wars, but the prequel takes place just before the start of World War I, and indeed the book opens with the death of an archduke in Sarajevo. Rutledge is young and foolishly in love with someone to whom he is not suited. He plans to ask her to marry him. A death of a widowed mother seems to set off a string of deaths around England that Rutledge must solved in the face of the growing realization that England will be going to war. As the war looms, Rutledge must solve a difficult case and make some decisions about his life before going off to war. The reader's knowledge of what lies ahead colors the reader's perceptions of what is to come, especially as Rutledge after the war is well- known to readers.

Why It Made the List

Charles Todd is actually the mother and son writing team who have written 17 books in this very popular series.

'Read It If You Like'

British mysteries, police procedurals, historical novels, war veteran heroes

Books in Inspector Ian Ru... Series (19)

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The previous sheriff is on his way out of town. In an election where the criminals campaigned for the other candidate, Quinn Colson lost his elected position as sheriff. He's preparing to leave, when a group of criminals rob the home of the owner of the lumber mill, a bold crime even for the town. The man had over a million dollars in his safe, which is interesting since it wasn't a million dollar business. Not only that, but the criminals killed the new sheriff, meaning that the town is without a law enforcement leader. Even without the proper authority, Colson steps back into the role of sheriff to solve this crime and bring the guilty people to justice.

Why It Made the List

This is the fifth novel in the Quinn Colson series. Atkins is also the author selected to continue Robert B. Parker's Spenser series, big shoes to fill for any author. Atkins has won two Mystery Writers of America's Edgar awards for the Colson series, so it's good. His works are typically set in the deep South, where Atkins hails from.

'Read It If You Like'

police procedurals, criminal kingpins, thrillers, regional mysteries

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Following the age-old custom of looking in a well at midnight, Annie goes to the neighbor's well to see the face of her future husband. The only problem is that instead she finds a corpse. She runs away, but the circumstances follow her and there are lots of question from the police about exactly what happened. The book is divided into two parts, one set in 1952 when Annie finds the corpse and 1936 where secret crimes were committed. The sheriff at the time thought she took care of things, but in light of the new murder and additional evidence, things are not quite what they seem. Add to that the fact that one of the people involved in the 1936 incidents are coming back to town 16 years later, things are likely to come to a head.

Why It Made the List

Lori Roy is another winner of Mystery Writers of America's Edgar awards. Her works often include elements of southern gothic fiction and character studies. In this novel, she gets the details of both historical sections accurate, which only heightens the suspense and tension in the book.

'Read It If You Like'

Southern gothic, historical mysteries, regional thrillers, long-buried secrets

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Radcote has been plagued with a number of suicides over the past few years. The toll of the rising number of people who have chosen death over life has rattled the village to its core. When a motorcyclist is found dead, the police discover a suicide note in the man's possession. The discovery reopens the entire case for the police and the community. DI Lorraine Fisher has come to Radcote to visit her sister, whose son is being cyber-bullied, though his mother isn't aware of this. The policeman in charge of the case is a known slacker, and she is fascinated by the details of the case. Of course, the chills are ratcheted up with each new death until Fisher finally solves the case in a thriller-like ending.

Why It Made the List

This is only the author's second novel, but based on the first two, she has great potential to be one of the top in the field. Her works are strong mystery plots with some elements of the thriller, along with strong character studies thrown in for good measure.

'Read It If You Like'

British police, police procedurals, small town crimes, suicides as murders

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Joe Coughlin has been the main character of two other of Lehane's books. He's a Boston crime figure who became involved with the Mafia. The story moves from Lehane's hometown to Florida and then to Cuba. This is a multi-book drama that builds throughout the trilogy to this, the third and last book. Coughlin has already experienced the loss of his wife, through his enemy's revenge to the loss of his criminal enterprises. Now ten years after the end of the last book, Coughlin is just a lower level person in another man's crime family. He's trying to raise his son alone and dealing with the ramifications of the last two books. After the series of losses, Coughlin is just trying to get by without being noticed, but of course that's all about to change.

Why It Made the List

Both of the earlier books in this trilogy have been wildly popular and Lehane is known to film watchers as the man behind Mystic River and Shutter Island. It's hard not run across his works these days. They're well-written and gripping, so that's not a bad thing.

'Read It If You Like'

mafia stories, Cuba as a setting, strong character studies, historical crime stories

Books in Coughlin Series (3)

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Jay Porter is tired of waiting. Fifteen years ago, he won a monumental case against Cole Oil. The problem is that the company has strung out the appeals and he's never seen a cent of the money he should have been paid for that case. At this point, he wants out of the legal business so that he can focus on his family and try to forget his career. In order to do that, he needs one last big case. When a campaign worker disappears, the nephew of one of the candidates for Houston's mayor is accused. The family, who has connections, power, and wealth, wants Porter to be the lead attorney on the case, despite the fact that he's never worked a murder trial before. He has to learn his way around the criminal courts, because he feels that he must take the case to pursue his new dreams. Of course politics and murder go together well, and Porter is shocked by what he learns.

Why It Made the List

Locke, when not writing first rate thrillers, is the writer and producer of the hit Fox TV series, Empire. Her books have been nominated for a variety of awards. In addition, she's worked for a variety of scripts for studios.

'Read It If You Like'

legal thrillers, political intrigue, burned out lawyers

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Six years ago, there was a hostage crisis in Vienna, where scores of lives were lost when the negotiations went horribly wrong. Two of the CIA operatives, Henry and Celia, were lovers as well as coworkers, but the events of that night split them up. She moved back to the United States to marry and raise a family, while Henry continued his career as an operative. Now he's come to California to see Celia. The major question that still lingers between them is not their own past, but the thought that their agent on the inside might have been found out but by whom and how? The dinner they share one night leads to a conversation over the events of the past, and some startling revelations of the past.

Why It Made the List

Steinhauer has knocked around Europe for a long time, which gives him a unique perspective on the political climate and the people. He received a Fulbright scholarship to live there as well, which he has put to good use. The book is a quiet one, focusing less on the car chases and bombs and more on the interactions between the characters and their shared past. It's this past that allows them to review the case that split them up, and learn more about what really happened there that night.

'Read It If You Like'

spy novels, espionage, hostage situations, European politics

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Most mysteries start with a secret and this novel is no different. Three girls used to play at the Tower Hotel as children, but they went their separate ways after a particularly peculiar discovery at the hotel. The story moves forward to the present, where Piper receives a call from her sister, saying that their friend Amy has been arrested for murder. They are forced to relive that odd scene at the hotel where they discovered the suitcase of Amy's aunt, who had supposedly run off to Hollywood to star in the latest Alfred Hitchcock movie. The two sisters decide to look into the hotel and the past, finding another pair of sisters who ran the hotel in its prime. Of course, the truth comes out in the end of the story as to what really happened at the hotel and in the past.

Why It Made the List

McMahon has only written seven novels so far but many of them have ended up as New York Times bestsellers. She went to college in Vermont, where the book is set, and lives there again after travelling around the country. She is definitely a writer to watch.

'Read It If You Like'

historical mysteries, character studies, small town crime

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As it often does, a tragedy in the family has the ability to pull a group of people together or divide them forever. In this book, a family is torn apart by the disappearance of the oldest daughter in the family. The police are relatively ambivalent about the case, since the girl may just be a runaway, but the family is not satisfied. The years pass and the two older sisters are shown as adults. One is the very successful wife of an Atlanta architect, while the other is barely eking out a living on her own. Then the architect is killed and the two sisters must come back together to look into how the two tragedies are related to each other. It quickly becomes obvious that a killer has been getting away with murder for a long time, and these two women must come together to get to the solution of the mystery.

Why It Made the List

Karin Slaughter has long been a fan favorite with her series, but in this standalone, she seems to have taken a leap to becoming a major force in writing.

'Read It If You Like'

past and present crimes connected, character studies, strong women protagonists

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Set in the mountains of North Carolina, Jacob McNeely has a tough life. His father runs the local meth ring, which has the tacit support of the police, who are on his payroll and ignore the crimes that go with running drugs. Jacob's life has grown more insulated as he dropped out of high school and cut himself off from his school friends. Now his life consists mainly of waiting for his father's promise of a big payoff to come true. Of course, it hasn't and Jacob now looks at a life that looks much like the present. He meets up with a girl he knew from high school, but even she has bigger plans than North Carolina. So heartache could easily loom in his future as well. Of course things take a turn for the worse and Jacob is given a chance to leave or to stay and face another sixty years of the same hard- scrabble life.

Why It Made the List

This is one of the nominees for the best first novel of the year from Mystery Writers of America. The book has received a lot of attention and starred reviews. He's completed two more novels for his publisher, so he's likely to be a name that you hear a lot more of in the near future.

'Read It If You Like'

country settings, drug trafficking, coming of age, corrupt police

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The book is set in the months after the end of World War II. Mason Collins is an Army criminal investigator in Munich, or what's left of it after the Allied bombing destroyed most of the city. Rubble stands tall. Food is scarce as are water and medical supplies. The setting is about as noir as it gets. Yet it's about to get worse. Collins discovers that a killer is still in Munich, a serial killer who like Jack the Ripper, seems to understand anatomy and has rituals that he performs on each victim. The selection of the victims seems to be random, so there's little for Collins to start with. As he works his way through the destruction of the city, the jailed Nazis and the bureaucracy of the armed services after the war, he starts to get an idea of the killer, but at the same time, the killer is now aware of Collins as well.

Why It Made the List

This is the first novel published by Connell and it's a great one. Prior to that, Connell had worked as a cameraman on films and TV shows. He's following up his first work with two more novels in this series, while writing in France.

'Read It If You Like'

military history, historical mysteries, military novels

Books in Mason Collins Series (2)

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On the border of China and Tibet rests the small town of Dayan. Li Du is an exiled librarian for the Emperor, and now is in this far-flung outpost. However, at the moment the town of Dayan is anything but sedate. The Emperor has declared that he will make an eclipse occur, because you know, he can do that. So the town is swarmed with those who wish to see the event and those who wish to see if the Emperor can pull it off. Even the Emperor has decided to visit Dayan to see the event. When a Catholic astronomer is found murdered, the blame is quickly blamed on the people of Tibet. However, Li Du suspects that the crime was nothing so random. The choice becomes to continue on his way out of China forever or to stay and investigate an unpopular crime.

Why It Made the List

Great historical mysteries are a treasure, and this definitely falls into that category. The book deals with China and its politics as well as the era of the early 18th century.

'Read It If You Like'

historical mysteries, foreign locations, royal intrigue, small town murders

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A woman who rides the daily train to London creates a picture perfect life for the couple she sees out the window during her commute. She gives them names and backstories, like an author might. They are one of the few highlights in this woman's life. However, this is the real world, and she soon learns that the people are nothing like the storybook characters she has created. The wife goes missing and the husband is suspected of killing her, especially after the rumors of her infidelity reach the press. The reader also learns that the narrator has her own problems and begins to doubt the storyline. The narrator decides to investigate the couple, who live close to her own ex-husband and his new wife and baby.

Why It Made the List

The Girl on the Train was the big buzz book of 2015. Coming after the hoopla surrounding Gone Girl, it has cemented the place of Girl titles for some time to come. The book already had a movie option in place before the book was released.

'Read It If You Like'

Bristish mysteries, unreliable narrators, domestic noir

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Cormoran Strike is a private eye. who in his third recorded case, has made a name for himself. Strike is a one-legged veteran of the Iraq war and the love child of a rocker and a groupie. He's known to the public for his work in those earlier cases. His business partner, Robin, is actively working at a job she loves and is planning her marriage to her long-time boyfriend. So when a severed leg arrives in the mail addressed to Robin, the duo is off on their latest case, an unpaid investigation into Strike's past, to determine who would do this. The obvious implications to Strike's own disabilities plus the desire for vengeance make the crime seem personal, and the killer's focus on Robin makes it all the more deadly.

Why It Made the List

Robert Galbraith is the pen name of JK Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter series. The first book in the series was not known to be hers, but now it's an open secret. This is the third book in the series.

'Read It If You Like'

private eye novels, British crime, serial killers

Books in Cormoran Strike Series (3)

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VI Warshawski is back again. She's getting older, but she's still as brash and still advocating for the disenfranchised. In this book, VI has to go back to the neighborhood where she grew up some four decades ago. She had dated Frank, who is now a political boss in Chicago. The relationship ended, and VI moved on with her life. Frank's family was not so lucky. Frank's mother was convicted of killing her daughter, Frank's sister, by bludgeoning her to death. She'd been uncooperative and angry, and the state had made her serve every last day of her sentence. However, now she's out and she wants to clear her name. Frank, who has few friends left in the old neighborhood, comes to VI asking for her help. The case moves into Chicago politics, which is as dirty as they come.

Why It Made the List

This is the 17th entry in a long and fascinating series. Paretsky herself has been incredibly active in the genre, helping to establish Sisters-in-Crime and advocating for women mystery authors. She was the Grandmaster of Mystery Writers of America a few years back.

'Read It If You Like'

private eye novels, political crimes, Chicago as a setting, women protagonists.

Books in V.I. Warshawski Series (17)

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Sometimes the best fortune creates the worst luck, and so it is for Carl. He inherits a fantastic home in an upscale London neighborhood upon the death of his father. However, he can't afford the upkeep on his salary, so he decides to rent the upper level to a roomer, Dermot. Carl finds his father's store of quack cures in the medicine cabinets, pills for practically everything. He makes a further mistake by selling some of the so-called diet pills to an actress friend who is worried about her weight. She dies, presumably from taking the pills. Dermot is fascinated by the case of the dead actress, and from his questions, he uncovers enough to start blackmailing Carl. Left without rent and facing more financial woes, Carl is in dire straits. Where will this end? Well, since it's Ruth Rendell, it will end with violence and a surprising twist that the reader will not see coming.

Why It Made the List

This is the very last Rendell book. She passed away in 2015. She's a three time Edgar winner and one of the best known names of the British mystery.

'Read It If You Like'

British mysteries, blackmail, creepy roommates, character studies

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The book's title refers to the fact that each of the quirky characters in the book is searching for his own great white whale, something that they are obsessed with. For Billy Graves, it's a case that he works as part of a group of cops who work after midnight, handling cases until the first shift police get into the station. Billy's on this duty because 20 years ago, he shot a little girl as part of a group called the Wild Geese, a group of popular but extremely aggressive officers working in the South Bronx. Following the shooting, Billy was rotated to the after midnight group, which rarely deals with people, and passes the cases off as soon as they can. Yet when a young boy is shot, the case seems to have a tie-in to the Wild Geese. Billy is obsessed with the case, not wanting to let the first shift officers take it. However, it will be a case that takes him down, like the Moby Dick once did to its hunter.

Why It Made the List

It's gotten a lot of buzz, in part because Stephen King talked about it and praised it.

'Read It If You Like'

police procedurals, Manhattan based crimes, old crimes

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Karen, a school teacher, is loving life. She's finally gotten to a place where she's relatively happy. However, the problems of the neighbors are about to spill over on her. Her next door neighbor, Mark, is growing obsessed with his neighbor. It could be in part because his alcoholic wife is cheating on him with Karen's daughter's boyfriend. The wife thinks that Mark and Karen are having an affair. Peyton Place had nothing on this New York suburb. Starr shows the thoughts and feelings of all of these characters as the tension mounts and dark secrets begin to come to light.

Why It Made the List

Savage Lanes is part of a new line of books from a new publisher, Polis Books, which has been gaining a reputation for its novels. Also the book, though written by a man, is part of the growing domestic noir movement, which pits suburbia against the feeling that everyone is trapped by fate. The in-depth character studies provide for an absorbing tale. Starr is well- known for his comics, but should also be known for his novels.

'Read It If You Like'

domestic suspense, noir, dark secrets, suburban crimes.

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This tale is set in the early Victorian times in India, the days of the East India Company. William Avery is a Ensign in the British forces who is frustrated with the lack of action. He's passed over for assignments and travel. He's teamed up with Blake, an undercover agent, who is both older and jaded. They've been asked to find Xavier Mountstuart, an author of romantic books about the country they all now reside in. Avery is the odd man out here, the natives look down their noses at the green soldier. The pair are concerned that Mountstuart might have been kidnapped. He's been living in the wilds and has suddenly disappeared. Of course, the case takes the two soldiers to disparate parts of the empire, finding natives struggling under British rule, and Thuggism, which may be a religious cult or something far worse.

Why It Made the List

It's nominated for an Edgar from Mystery Writers of America, and was a Washington Post notable book for 2015 as well. While a traditional mystery, the book is notable for its characterization as well as its language.

'Read It If You Like'

historical fiction, foreign settings

Books in Avery & Blake Series (2)

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