In this edition our monthly thematic roundup of BookLife titles, we celebrate mysteries and thrillers. Want to see your book featured? Check out the Indie Spotlight Calendar at booklife.com/about-us/booklife-s-indie-spotlight.html.
Children’s & YA Mystery
The Ghosts of Marshley Park
About the book: When 16-year-old Jade Roberts wakes up dead in an old Victorian graveyard, she enlists the aid of Victorian-era ghost Julian to help solve her murder.
Author statement: “I started to formulate this book after learning that one of the chieftains of our Scottish clan had been a practitioner of magic. I combined that with my own religious upbringing to create Julian’s situation.”
Walnut Street: Phantom Rider
About the book: The four Botanic Hill Detectives head to the Mayfield family’s California horse ranch to investigate the theft of valuable objects. Soon, their case entangles the 13-year-old sleuths in hunting for a long-lost gold mine, exploring a snake-infested ghost town, and attempting to identify a threatening black-clad figure on horseback known as the Phantom Rider.
Author statement: “As a 10-year-old, I read Nancy Drew mystery #5, The Secret at Shadow Ranch, and knew I wanted to write a horse-ranch mystery someday. As a grandmother, retired teacher, and children’s fiction author, I believe it is important to help kids become antiracist, accepting, respectful world citizens. To this end, I populate my books with multiracial characters and a twist of important but, perhaps, overlooked history—in this case, the famous Black deputy United States marshal Bass Reeves.”
Better Haunts and Garden Gnomes ((Un)Lucky Valley Series)
Michelle M. Pillow
About the book: Lily Goode wasn’t aware she had an inheritance waiting for her in the form of a huge Victorian house in Lucky Valley, Colo. Life might finally be coming together for her. That is, if you don’t count the endless home repairs, dealing with eccentric Aunt Polly who claims they’re both witches, and Nolan Dawson, the handsome home inspector who seems to have it out for her. Oh, and not to mention the strange hallucinations and garden gnomes who are far more than lawn ornaments. If mysterious accidents don’t do her in, then the rebellious gnomes just might. With the help of Aunt Polly, it’s up to Lily to discover who’s sabotaging her new home and trying to drive the Goodes out of Lucky Valley once and for all.
Author statement: “I’ve been a published author for 18 years now, and during that time I’ve had the opportunity to write in many different romance genres—dark fantasy, historical, paranormal, contemporary, and sci-fi. One thing became obvious very quickly in my career. For better or worse, I wasn’t a one-genre writer. My muse likes to explore and research, so I let her.”
Bogged Down (A Vashon Island Mystery)
About the book: An ancient bog hidden away in a forest is the perfect backdrop for murder. Bogged Down is a mystery set on Vashon Island, a place that has been described as Mayberry meets Burning Man. Lavender “Lew” Lewis moved there because it is only a 20-minute ferry ride from Seattle, yet lightyears away in tempo and character. She grew up on a commune in Alaska, joined the army at 17, does woods parkour for exercise and HR investigations to earn a living. Life in her waterfront cabin with her two food-obsessed cats is predictable and relatively stress-free. Until she leads a tour group into an ancient bog on the island and finds a hand poking up from a murky pond.
Author statement: “There is an ancient bog on Vashon Island, although to avoid unwanted visitors to this fragile wetland, it’s not in the location I’ve described. Bog tours only take place once a year for a limited number of people. This year, the tour guides are handing out copies of Bogged Down, and participants will recognize the place where the fictional murder takes place. I like to ground my mysteries in actual places and issues. For instance, in Bogged Down, the coyote packs and the annual coyote count are real. And there was a cougar, although he was eventually removed to protect domestic animals. Finally, as a mystery writer, I find Vashon’s blend of rural living and city professionals seeking refuge from city life the perfect setting for murder and mayhem.”
Murder at Old St. Thomas’s
Lisa M. Lane
About the book: In 1862 London, the body of a famous surgeon is found, sitting upright, in an old operating theatre. The bookish Inspector Slaughter must discover the killer with the help of his American sergeant and clues from Nightingale nurses, surgeon’s dressers, devious apothecaries, and even stage actors.
Author statement: “I write semi-cozy Victorian mysteries where the past is not just a setting for a story—it’s a world within which people lived and worked. Real-life historical figures ‘guest star’ in my books.”
Where the Light Shines Through: An Olivia Penn Mystery
About the book: Castle meets Clue in this fun, fast-paced, and uplifting cozy mystery. Olivia’s syndicated advice column is about solving problems, not murders. But when she returns to her hometown of Apple Station in Virginia to visit her dad, her world changes forever with the death of someone dear. A promise to a grieving mother leads her to uncover secrets from the past that put her life in danger. With the support of friends and family, a tenuous alliance with the lead police detective, and the bravery of an intrepid beagle, she races to protect her dad, rescue an unlikely ally, and bring a murderer to justice.
Author statement: “When I was a child, I visited a beach near a lighthouse every summer. At night, I would watch the beacon light spin around, thinking about ships far off the coast and how that flash of light in the darkness imparted a sense of direction. As long as you could see the light, you were never lost. This became the basis for one of the core themes in Where the Light Shines Through. Flash forward many years, and here I am, writing the types of stories I like to read: mysteries with heart and humor that keep to the cozy and traditional sides of crime.”
Financial Crime and Scandal
About the book: When the death of a successful London banker looks suspicious, forensic accountant Kat Munro assists DS Adam Jackson in investigating a crime with implications beyond the City, putting their personal and professional lives on a deadly collision course.
Author statement: “Having spent a number of years working in banking and accountancy, I enjoy dreaming up complex financial crimes enacted by smart, devious criminals for my protagonist to solve!”
About the book: Key Man is a thriller involving a unique financial crime that weaves together several murders and millions in stock market gains. The story begins when two LA detectives, Sam and Ski—already stymied by a murder investigation that’s going nowhere—are hounded by Kate Newberry, who wants them to get to the bottom of her grandfather’s seemingly unrelated murder. Reluctantly, this unlikely trio follows an expanding bicoastal trail that leads to dozens of potentially related murders. Frantic, they race to try and connect the dots in time to determine who’s next.
Author statement: “Over the course of my working life, instead of eating lunch, I’d go for an hourlong run. During these runs, I’d let my mind wander. On one run, I had an idea that could net millions. Unfortunately, the scheme required committing murder. Rather than going to the dark side, I decided to develop the idea into the plot for a novel in which the protagonist was willing to do whatever was necessary to get rich. Once I had the financial scheme worked out, the arc of the story—from the first scene to the last—was clear. Next, I created backstories for the major characters so that their actions and interactions would ring true. After each major character had a history and a unique voice, I let them tell the story.”
About the book: Innocent questions can have dangerous answers. Laura’s life is plunged into turmoil when her husband, Tom, dies suddenly. On that same night, an intruder steals papers from Tom's home office. He’d been researching his previous employer’s Iraqi operations but hadn’t shared his concerns with Laura. Why would anyone want his files? Learning Tom’s death could be murder, Laura takes matters into her own hands.
Author statement: “My plot inspiration comes from current social and political issues. Lethal Legacy specifically draws on the Australian political scandal embroiling the Australian Wheat Board and the Iraqi war. The book Kickback by Catherine Overington was a source of inspiration.”
Twisty Thrillers and True Crime
Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey
Fredrick Douglass Reynolds
About the book: This book provides a unique perspective on the interactions between police officers and the community.
Author statement: “In my time as a police officer, I encountered truly horrendous stories showing the worst parts of humanity, as well as redeeming stories that show the resilience of the human spirit. Although this is a book about the life of a police officer, it is about so much more. It dives into stories of family dysfunction, racial division and strife, police corruption and brutality, and ultimately, the redemption of someone who struggled with it all.”
About the book: Once a world-class musician, Matt Lanier now survives by playing guitar for spare change in the streets and skyways of Minneapolis. He’s also homeless, broke, and a fugitive accused of murdering a cop. His downward spiral started after he uncovered a multibillion-dollar conspiracy orchestrated by Leland Smythe, a corrupt, ruthless real estate magnate. To clear his name, Matt must convince the authorities that the conspiracy is real. Because Matt threatens Smythe’s success, Smythe wants him dead. David had better odds against Goliath.
Author statement: “Dangerous Straits is the third book in my Matt Lanier mystery-thriller series. I’ve set all three books in Minnesota, my home state. I try to write fast-paced stories with unique characters.”
Figure Eight: A Northern Lakes Mystery
About the book: A shattered career. A crooked lawyer. An unsolved murder. Seeking peace in the Northwoods is fraught with danger. Every night John Cabrelli relives the tragic events that ended his career. While struggling to find himself again, John inherits his uncle’s cabin and returns to the lake where he spent much of his youth. Little does John know that danger waits for him when he uncovers the suspicious circumstances of his uncle’s death. Few people will talk about it as John unravels a mystery that could forever change the landscape.
Author statement: “My first book was 72 years in the making. Before I was born, my father and a friend were grouse hunting in northern Wisconsin. They were looking for a place to stay and directed to an old work camp that was being converted into a resort. My father brought my older brother and my mother back to the same location the following summer, starting a tradition that has lasted over seven decades. Each summer, family members from across the country come to gather at these same cabins on the same lake to fish, swim, eat, laugh, and love. Part of our tradition included all of us reading a mystery book from a local author during our stay. One year she didn’t write a book—so I did. We spiral-bound it and handed it out to everyone in the family. Figure Eight became the first story in my Northern Lakes Mystery series.”
How to Spot a Psychopath
About the book: When four-year-old Mia Edwards goes missing on a playdate, everyone suspects Jessica Green knows what happened, especially Mia’s mother, Holly. But Jess won’t tell anyone. Psychiatrist Dr. Oscar de la Nuit is determined to save Jess from the same regret and secrets he lives with. In this psychological suspense story, a missing child case turns into a deep psychological puzzle. Punchy chapters twist between Jessica’s then and Oscar’s now, as he attempts to unravel the lies before his own catch up with him.
Author statement: “This book was actually inspired by a TED Talk I’d heard from Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which got me thinking about the power of choosing not to say anything in a situation where you’d expect someone to be screaming from the rooftops, proclaiming their innocence.”
The Madonna Dilemma
Aaron T. Knight
About the book: A famous painting of Madonna is stolen in Rome by an American mob boss. Somewhere in the fencing of the masterpiece, the painting disappears. An LA art dealer who was to fence the artwork is found murdered. A mob boss, a widow, an associate, and an enemy of the dead man are in a panic to find the money or the painting. Meanwhile, an LA detective who is only interested in coasting along until early retirement is assigned to the murder case.
Author statement: “Inspiration for this novel began with an idle thought: what if you launched a car controlled by a guidance system on Interstate 15 with a corpse behind the wheel?”
The Potrero Complex
Amy L. Bernstein
About the book: Journalist Rags Goldner is battle-scarred and heartbroken after covering a devastating pandemic that has raged in Baltimore for five years. She leaves the city with her partner in search of a simpler life in small-town Maryland—only to discover nothing in Canary is simple. A teenager is missing, and it falls to Rags to fight the forces of apathy, paranoia, and creeping fascism to learn the shocking truth about Effie Rutter’s fate—and the fate of thousands like her.
Author statement: “I conceived the idea for the book at the outset of the pandemic. I felt we were undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime experience, namely, living with a terrifyingly lethal and unpredictable disease that could strike anyone at any time. I immediately wondered how this event would affect civic life—how societies around the world would balance safety while protecting civil liberties. In 2020, I didn’t know how this would play out, but I chose to focus on imagining how a pandemic even more lethal than Covid might weaken basic human rights in the U.S. Carrying that to a more-or-less logical conclusion led me to tell the story in The Potrero Complex.”
The Recruiter (The Rewired Series Book 1)
About the book: CEO Ori Clayborn has humanity’s best interests at heart—but powerful, mysterious forces will do whatever it takes to bring him down. With his life in danger, will Ori risk everything to fight back?
Author statement: “I have had an active imagination my whole life, but it wasn’t until the birth of my first child that I began putting the stories in my mind on paper. I wanted to be an example of someone pursuing a passion, dreaming big, and taking chances. The Recruiter is my debut novel, and book 1 of the Rewired Series, which addresses the need for representation in our heroes and superheroes, while also exploring dreams, time, and the expansion of the human mind.”