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Best Mystery Books of 2016

Mystery Books of 2016

We've put together a good list of our top mystery book reads of 2016. These are all books released during the 2016 year. If you are a mystery fan and looking for NEW reading material, well, these are the books you'll want to draw from!

Lu Brandt is the daughter of one of most admired states attorneys, and now she is one as well. However, the job is not all that she expected. As she begins to look into a new case presented to her, the man who held the office before her begins to throw out hints that the case might have repercussions for her and her family. First writing it off as sour grapes, Lu decides to look into things more and learns the hard way that the past sometimes should be left alone. Everyones story of the past has errors and forgotten elements that change the readers perspective. The book has alternating chapters that tell the past through a young Lus eyes and the current criminal court case that she is trying.

Why It Made the List  Lippmann is one of the premiere mystery authors writing today. She alternates between standalone crime novels and a private eye series featuring Tess Monaghan. Both sets of books are worth the read. Lippman is a former reporter, and her fiction has won multiple mystery awards and one of her standalones became a film.

Read It If You Like  Past crimes, legal thrillers, alternating viewpoints

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The latest book from Megan Abbott has the buzz this year. Her story focuses on the Knox family, the seemingly perfect family of two parents and their children, a boy and an incredible gymnast girl. The action begins with the introduction of Ryan, the boyfriend of the coachs niece, who seems to charm women and girls alike. Mrs. Knox even dances with him at the soiree they are all attending. When Ryan is killed by a hit-and-run driver, people begin to talk why was he on the road late at night? Where had he been coming from and where was he going? Everyone has their own ideas, but the death seems to send the Knox family into a spiral from which they cannot easily suspend. The reader begins to wonder what lengths each of these characters would go to in order to keep the secrets they have. Why It Made the List  Perhaps more than any book this year, this novel has received a phenomenal amount of buzz. Abbott is always known for her realistic portrayals of girls and women, and using the backdrop of the competitive world of gymnastics adds to the mix. Expect this book to garner a lot of attention, perhaps some awards, and almost certainly some movie deals.

Read It If You Like Suburban suspense, gymnastics, twists and turns.

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Hamilton has won a number of awards over the years for his work. He won the Edgar for best first novel and won again for best novel years later. Yet hes never had the acclaim that he deserves. All that changes with this book. Nick Mason is behind bars when hes offered a deal for release. He is given the life he always wanted and freedom of a sort. In return for this, he has to answer a cellphone that hes been given and do whatever the voice on the other end of that phone tells him to do. Mason agrees, wanting more than anything to get out of jail free; however, the price for his freedom grows more expensive with each phone call.

Why It Made the List  This book start a buzz even before it was published. Hamilton ended his long-time relationship with Minotaur, bought back the rights to the book (even though it was already in galleys) and opted to shop the book around to other publishers, feeling that the book was not getting enough promotion. Once he sold it again, this time to GP Putnam, Nick Mason became one of the most anticipated books of 2016. Hamiltons faith in this novel is well-placed.

Read It If You Like prison stories, organized crime

Books in Nick Mason Series (2)

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East is a low-level member of a Los Angeles gang and only 16 years old. Hes given the thankless task of watching a drug-house to make sure that theres no trouble, but he fails miserably at this task. East and his wilder brother are related to the drug lord, so he tries to help them out. In order to hide from the police and other gangs, East, his brother, and two other gang members are sent to Wisconsin to kill a potential witness to the gangs operations. East has never been outside of LA and the rest of the country is a mystery to him. One of the more shocking aspects is that this rag-tag crew ranges in age from 13-20, meaning that these would-be assassins are not up to the task.

Why It Made the List   This is Beverlys first novel, and it has made an impact on the genre. The book was reviewed in the New York Times. The major feat of the novel is taking these gang members and making them into empathetic characters that the reader actually roots for.

Read It If You Like coming of age novels, novels about life changes, gang stories.

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A different approach for Perry, this novel features not one but two couples who work and play together. The first couple are Ronnie and Sid Abel, former LAPD officers and now private detectives who work together as well. The second couple are Nicole and Ed Hoyt, who get paid to kill people. The couples aren’t exactly bridge buddies, but their paths are soon to cross. The Abels are hired to look into a case of where a food engineer has been murdered. He’d gone missing and later turned up shot in the back of the head in the storm drain. Months later, his murder is still unsolved. The Abels have to look the dead man’s life to find out why someone would want to kill him. The Hoyts are hired to prevent the Abels from finding anything, preferably by killing the detectives. Why It Made the List Perry, who is best known for his series about Jane Whitefield, has flexed his muscles in writing a different stand-alone for him. The book is humorous, slightly quirky and a plot featuring couples as sleuths and antagonists.

Read It If You Like corporate crimes, married detectives, Los Angeles crimes

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If the story seems a bit familiar that’s because it is. Jane Steele is a poor orphan who is treated abysmally by her aunt and cousin. When she can take no more, she leaves their care and leaves a pile of bodies behind. Jane must now make her own way in the world in London. When her aunt passes away, Jane is certain that the woman must have left something to her, so she goes back to the country as the governess for the child of Mr. Thornfield. Yet when she gets there, things are not as they seem. The manservant seems to hold a certain sway over his master, and Mr. Thornfield is far more attractive than she expected. However, as she grows closer to him, she wonders if she can share her secrets with him as he shared his with her. Why It Made the List It’s a repurposed telling of Jane Eyre with a heroine who is anything but demure. Faye has been praised for her previous works but in Jane Steele she really fulfills her earlier promise. This is a book expected to win awards and gain greater attention through word-of-mouth.

Read It If You Like Victorian novels, strong women characters, retellings of classic novels

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Junior Bender is a father and a thief. His clients are typically the bad guys in and around Los Angeles, and in this case, hes been asked to steal a stamp from a hitman (note: Lawrence Blocks Keller is also a stamp-collecting hit man.) It goes without saying that the theft goes off with a few hitches and Bender finds it necessary to steal more things from more people including Hollywood mogul, King Maybe in order to save his skin.  Maybes ex-paramour has been thrown out of their home, and she wants some of items they accumulated for herself. Bender keeps stealing to make sufficient funds to protect himself from the professional killer, but his instincts tell him that something is very wrong. Why It Made the List  This is the latest Junior Bender title, the most well-known and well-loved series by Hallinan. While that by itself might be enough to get the title on the list, its the same type of fun caper novel that he writes so well, making it a treat and one of the best books of the year.

Read It If You Like capers, comic mysteries

Books in Junior Bender Series (6)

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Tanya Dubois is on the run. She finds her husband at the bottom of the stairs and knows she has to leave. He apparently died a natural death, but Tanya is afraid that the police will investigate her past, and she intimates that she has secrets that should remain private. So instead, she runs away. On the road, she calls a Mr. Oliver who manages to provide her with a false identity. In Texas, she meets a bartender named Blue and the two women are abducted until Blue manages to kill the kidnappers. Tanya now has to start stealing IDs on the road to keep her identity hidden. The reader learns about her past and the secrets along this long and dangerous road trip. Some of these issues stems from her first lover and the secrets of high school. Why It Made the List  Lutz was the author of the Spellman series of mysteries about a female private eye in the family business. Shes since switched to write more serious thrillers about issues that face women (and people in general) in todays society.

Read It If You Like  humorous, thriller, woman on the run

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The book is a science-fiction thriller, but a mystery at its heart. Jason Dressen goes to a local bar and ends up getting far more than a drink. Hes abducted and when he wakes up after being kidnapped, hes strapped to a gurney. Although hes welcomed back to reality by the men in hazmat suits, his reality has changed. He has no children, and the woman who calls herself his wife is not the woman he married. Hes no longer a professor; hes hailed as a genius. However, the questions begin. What is real and what is fantasy? Was the world of the books opening reality or fiction? What about the world now? The book keeps on at a rapid pace, barely letting the reader catch her breath, before springing a unique ending on the reader.  Why It Made the List  Crouchs name might sound familiar because hes the author of the Wayward Pines trilogy, which is now a Fox TV series. This latest book is a stand-alone that tackles some age old questions.

Read It If You Like alternate realities, alternate universes, time travel

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Adrian Wall is released from prison, still swearing to anyone who will listen that he didnt kill a woman 13 years ago. However, the womans teenaged son doesnt believe him and is waiting for Wall upon his parole. He tries to shoot the former detective to avenge his mother. Wall is visited by Elizabeth Black, also a police officer who knew Wall years ago, and believes that hes innocent. However, the rest of the force is not so trusting, and Blacks superior officer orders her to stay away from him. The command comes in part because Black is under investigation for the shooting of two men who had abducted and raped a teenaged girl. Add to this the first-person narrative of an unknown character and the reader will want to finish this book in one setting. Why It Made the List  Hart took nearly five years to write Redemption Road, but the wait for publication was worth the time. Hart is known for literary mysteries and each one only seems to get better. Hart is an Edgar winner for very obvious reasons.

Read It If You Like literary mysteries, thrillers, multiple main characters

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Nicolette left town shortly after her friends disappearance a decade earlier. Now shes back in town to deal with that situation and help with the care of her parents who are getting older. Nics brother and his wife are expecting a baby. Her former boyfriend is dating the girl who gave all of the main characters an alibi for the night of the friends disappearance. In short order, the alibi disappears before she can be questions too closely about the events of that fateful night, and once again, everyone is a suspect in this second girls disappearance. The author gives out the information about the disappearances in small dollops that intrigue the reader and keep her guessing until the very end. Why It Made the List  Every summer seems to bring another girl thriller and this is the current blockbuster in that category. The book is told in reverse (think the film Memento) from Day 15 to Day 1. The reader has to keep on her toes in order to keep track of the events in sequence and understand the story at hand.

Read It If You Like  the recent girls novels featuring an unreliable female narrator, thrillers

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Easy Rawlins has come a long way in the 14 cases that make up his story. In the latest book, Rawlins now has his own detective agency and a girl who cares for him. Yet he still assists his friends when they need help. Mouse asks for a favor when the son of an acquaintance is accused of murder. The son is a graduate student at Stanford and the victim is intimately involved with the criminal elements in Los Angeles. Yet in the early 1960s, that means little to the judicial system. The case is complicated by the interest of a crime boss, which could be dangerous to Easy even if he does solve the case. Why It Made the List  Easy Rawlins has become an iconic character in the mystery genre. Hes one of the very few African American private eyes, and he has been translated to film with Denzel Washington playing the role in the movies. The series with stories set just after World War II and now the cases are taking place in the 1960s in the buildup to the civil rights movement.

Read It If You Like private eye novels, historical novels, mysteries set in Los Angeles

Books in Easy Rawlins Series (13)

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This story takes place in an alternate universe where the US Civil War was never fought and slavery continues to exist in a few hold-out states. Lincoln Victor is a black man who is working with Federal Law Enforcement to track down and capture fugitive slaves. In this case, hes hunting a slave named Jackdaw, who is being assisted by the Underground Airlines. Victors own past is complicated as he used to be a slave, but he only has vague memories of how he became who he is today. The hunt for Jackdraw takes on additional meaning to him as he meets a young woman and her family and he begins to doubt his role in the fugitive slave movement. Why It Made the List  The book has caused quite a stir, since the author who is white is writing about slavery as an enduring institution. There have been suggestions of appropriation and some have been unhappy with the results. Winters is a white writer, telling a first person story about a former fugitive slave. The ALA named it a best book of the month for July though.

Read It If You Like alternate history, controversial books, political thrillers

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Manderly Resort is the newest inclusive resort on the coat of California. It has a full-service staff and the best in security. Everyone is being watched all the time, which sounds like a great idea until someone begins watching and then killing the staff of the resort. Tessa is the manager of the resort, who learns of the rising body count in a daramatic fashsion. Shes also distracted by a former foster brother, who she is interested in. The deaths become more outrageous as the murderer becomes more creative in killing the staff. Who is behind the deaths and what is his motive? Why It Made the List  Wohlsdorf is a first time novelist, and she is being compared to Hitchcock, King, and Poe. Thats not bad company to be in. The name of the resort is a tip of the hat to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, where the palacial estate is named Manderly.The text is split into multiple columns at points to give the perspectives of different people for the same events, which only serves to heighten the tension and expect a big surprise at the end.

Read It If You Like thrillers, serial killers, lots of body, wicked humor

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In the Texas town of Clearview, Sheriff Dan Rhodes goes the barn of the Bacon ranch to find the body of Melvin Hunt. Mr. Bacon called the sheriff to report a break-in at the ranch. Rhodes thinks that Bacon is a little too relaxed about finding a corpse and hes more suspicious that Bacon took down a sign saying that trespassers would be shot and the titular, survivors will be shot again. Bacons neighbor doesnt care about the murder, and an alligator seems to be the watchdog for a pot farm. Hunt might be the thief in town, but theres more to this crime than first meets the eye. Why It Made the List  This is the 23rd book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. While it hasnt received the attention that it deserves, this series has produced quality mysteries year after year. Crider has a great eye for detail and a sense of humor that infuses the work. Its worth the trouble to read the series in order, but this book is another worthy entry in this years best.

Read It If You Like police procedural, small town mysteries

Books in Sheriff Dan Rhod... Series (25)

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Joshua Speed has just come to town, after leaving his plantation past. He meets young lawyer Lincoln and they become roommates. A young girl is killed in a nearby town, and the crime is unsolved, though the aunt is strongly suspected. Speed decides to take on the investigation to clear the womans name. There are more bodies along the way, and Lincoln shows himself as a reluctant investigator. The story shows the prevailing attitudes on the latest recession in the country, the plight of the poor, and the impact of slavery. Why It Made the List  The book has one of the most original combinations of historical characters to serve as sleuths. Joshua Speed and long-time roommate Abraham Lincoln are living in Springfield, Illinois when the action takes place. Speed and Lincoln have been the subjects of gay rumors which will only add to the curiosity about the pairing. The crime in the novel is based on historical fact. There are few mysteries set using Civil War figures or using that era, making this a triumph for the first time author.

Read It If You Like legal thrillers, historical fiction, real-life characters in fiction

Books in A Lincoln and Sp... Series (2)

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This is Detective Banks first case as Detective Superintendent and his 23rd case in this series. He gets a 50-year old case where a poet has accused a familiar pop star of rape back in the 1960s. Though the pop star is still alive and denies the accusations, the rest of the case is a shambles. The documents in the case have long disappeared, either through negligence or design. Hes on his own here, since most of the staff are working a more recent rape case where a young girl is raped, dumped on the street, where she is picked up and beat to death by someone else. Both cases bring emotions to a head and the comparisons are clear, despite the difference in eras. Why It Made the List  The Banks series is another overlooked gem. Robinson has won the Edgar and the Dagger from the British Crime Writers among others. The book is very topical given the recent spate of celebrity sex crime, and the book pulls no punches. This series doesnt necessarily need to be read in order, so pick a few and enjoy.

Read It If You Like police procedurals, ensemble casts, historical crimes

Books in Inspector Banks Series (23)

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Hugo Marston, a security expert for the American Embassy in Paris, is summoned to the American Library in Paris. There he finds his friend Paul Rogers locked behind the door of his office, a sealed room, the classic locked room mystery. He was reading the papers of the actress Isabella Serverin, loosely based on Olivia de Havilland, at the time of his death. The actress appears to have sided with the Resistance against the Nazis, and the collection is rumored to have the dagger she used to kill a Nazi officer during the war. The solution to the case is found in the past and not in the present. Pryor does a great job with one of the hardest forms of mystery to write. Why It Made the List  This is the sixth Hugo Marston novel, and his return after Pryors novel, Hollow Man, which deal with a psychopath. Marston is a fan favorite and the reviews have been fantastic for his latest book. Pryor is an ADA in Austin, and frequently writes about criminal cases and the law.

Read It If You Like historical mysteries, Nazis, locked rooms, European mysteries

Books in Hugo Marston Series (6)

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ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Special Agent Dominic Verrazzano,  the lead of a new series, discovers a plot to release chemical weapons on New York City. The only problem is that he hasnt learned any details beyond that. One of his sources leaves a dying clue for Verrazzano to solve, and he has to head through the civil war in Syria to find the weapon. When it turns out that Verrazzanos former commander is behind the plot, the commander knows secrets that could prove damaging to Verrazzano Why It Made the List  Rees is a former correspondent on the Middle East and is incredibly well-versed in the war on terror. His novels, this is his seventh, have the air of verisimilitude that is not often found in political thrillers. He knows what he writes, and he writes well. Hes received the British Crime Writers Dagger for one of his previous novels. This is planned as a series of ICE novels; Rees thinks that the second largest federal law enforcement agency, and there are plenty of stories to tell.

Read It If You Like  Spy fiction, terrorists, political thrillers

Books in Dominic Verrazza... Series (1)

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When money man Jerzy Schroeder is murdered while talking to lobbyist Josie Kendall (working for the Majority Values Coalition), shes the main suspect. She was asking for a million-dollar donation, she was four feet from him when he was killed, and rumors are flying that she and the dead man had been having an affair. She and her husband, who doesnt seem to mind the affair rumors, go into damage control mode, along with her uncle, a master at the political game who just was released from prison. He says that they have 30 days to put the spin on the situation and make it stick. Of course, since its on this list as well, Josie also solves the murder and clears her name. Why It Made the List  The intrigue and quips about dealing with Washington and the insiders is what makes this book. The mystery is fine, but when Bowen gets to writing about how Washington works, then the book really sizzles. Its a great read in this political season, if youre tired of the news.

Read It If You Like political backgrounds, married couple sleuths, Washington insiders

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Rocco Schiavone was exiled from Rome in his first outing, and now in the second book in the series, hes living in the small town of Val dAosta, which sits on the edge of the Alps. Life is dull but routine. So when a local maid calls the police because shes found her employers house burgled and the mistress of the house hanging lifeless from a rope, he finds himself up to his ears in a new case. Of course, he has plenty to keep him worried. Despite his devotion to his dead wife, Schiavone has obtained a pushy girlfriend, whose birthday is today. Hes also keeping tabs on a certain rapist in Rome, who was the reason he was exiled to the outer reaches.

Why It Made the List  The book has a first-rate mystery, one that will hit the reader with the surprise of it. The novel is the second in the series and lives up to the promise of the first novel, Black Run, which appeared in 2015.

Read It If You Like European mysteries, exiled police officers, police procedurals

Books in Rocco Schiavone Series (5)

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Bob Patterson is the coaster. He married well, has two great kids and a pretty chill life. Not much is expected of him, and he likes it that way. His wifes fortune stems from her rich father, and when the father passes away, he leaves Bob as the trustee for the company and for the widows allowance. An old frat buddy reappears. Is it coincidence or does he have designs on Bobs new found fortune? Bob quickly finds that he preferred his old life, where he didnt have to work very hard. Another company decides to horn in and tries to merge with Bobs firm. When that doesnt work, they move into blackmail and other dastardly deeds. Bob has to fight back the only way that he knows how dirty. Why It Made the List  This is Wursters first novel, and while there are crimes in the book, the focus in on the career parth of Bob from do-nothing to playing hardball with other companies. There are similarities to series like Breaking Bad and other shows with the everyman against the world.

Read It If You Like corporate intrigue, doing anything to stay alive  

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Angela Richman is a death investigator. Shes good at her job, and shes just taken on the case of a rich teenager, when she suffers a series of strokes. The first doctor to see her, Dr. Gravois, misdiagnoses her. Fortunately, shes saved by Dr. Tritt, a rather off-beat neurosurgeon. Even though her prognosis is good, she still has a terrible recovery ahead of her, and she cant trust the former skills that made her an effective death investigator. The situation grows worse, when she discovers that Dr. Gravois has been murdered, and Dr. Tritt is the main suspect. She doesnt think that possible, but she will have a hard time trying to put together the pieces while putting her brain back to its former patterns. The circle the wagons medical community makes it even more difficult to get to the truth.

Why It Made the List  This is a major change for Viets who up to this point has written cozy mysteries with something of a social conscious. This book is far darker than anything shes written, and the gamble has paid off. This is a great book and the start to a new series. Definitely worth finding.

Read It If You Like injured protagonists, forensic mysteries

Books in Death Investigat... Series (1)

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A Public Prosecutors wife is found dead. Her head was cut off at home, and her husband stands there covered in blood. It looks bad for him until he gives the investigators the name of a convicted (and released) man who has a grudge against the prosecutor. The police have to look into the prosecutors motives while at the same time starting a manhunt for the former convict. A police informant tells Hanne Wilhelmsen that the convict committed suicide days before the murder, and then a newspaperman is murdered in the same manner as the wife. What was the connection btween the two murders? In addition to this tough case, Hanne Wilhelmsen learns that his lover only has a few weeks to live, putting his own personal life into a turmoil.

Why It Made the List  Anne Holt has been called the godmother of Norwegian crime fiction, quite a title considering the growing reputation of that community. Her works have been nominated for the Edgar as well. This is her fifth installment in her Hanne Wilhelmsen series and is one of the best.

Read It If You Like Norwegian crime fiction, police procedurals

Books in Hanne Wilhelmsen Series (10)

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Peter Diamond is a Bath police officer, who is thrown a tough and political case in this mystery. Two officers go out on a routine call just before the end of their shifts. Instead of a quick call, the car caroms off the road and leaves one dead and the other in critical condition. Diamonds superiors want an explanation that exculpates the two officers. Diamond finds another man lying by the side of the road, someone who was not found at the time of the accident. Diamond tries to revive the man, but its touch-and-go. He begins looking into who the man was, and he doesnt like what he finds. Diamond has to now look into a series of murders.

Why It Made the List  Lovesey, who is celebrating his 80th birthday this year, has been a long-time fixture in the mystery community. Hes been writing mysteries for over 40 years and he consistently turns out high quality mysteries in multiple series. Lovesey has been nominated or won nearly every possible mystery award known, and each of the series is worth looking into.

Read It If You Like  British mysteries, British police mysteries

Books in Peter Diamond Series (16)

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