When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing I like better than curling up with a good mystery. I don’t know what it is about crime novels and psychological thrillers, but I just can’t get enough of them. Even if I can see a twist coming from a mile away, I devour mystery after mystery. Bloated decomposing corpses? Kidnappings? Stalkers? Yes, yes, yes. (What does it say about me that I’m this obsessed with mysteries? I’m trying not to think about it too much.)
One of my favorite aspects of mystery novels is character development; after all, you’re not going to care if someone is in danger or whether a character is able to solve a mystery if you aren’t invested in them. That’s why I love mystery series so much; you can get to know characters over multiple books, and they can grow and change over that time. It reflects the way you get to know people in real life (except with regard to the high body count over the course of multiple books). This year has already seen a wealth of sequels in great series, with more on the way; check out these latest installments and go back and catch up on these great mystery series (all written by women!)
1'A Twist in Time' by Julie McElwain
Julie McElwain’s novel A Murder in Time was one of the most unexpected and delightful novels I read in 2016. It’s the story of an FBI agent, Kendra Donovan, who is on the trail of a killer and is accidentally transported back to 1815. There, she stumbles into a crime investigation, but must contend with the restrictions that came with being a woman during that time. It was fascinating, clever, and absolutely gripping. The sequel, A Twist in Time, isn’t out until April, which gives you plenty of time to read the excellent first book.
2'The Guests on South Battery' by Karen White
Karen White is a queen of atmospheric Southern fiction, and nowhere is that more apparent than in her Tradd Street series. The first, The House on Tradd Series, features Melanie Trenholm, who is able to see ghosts. And living in Charleston, South Carolina, means that there are ghosts everywhere. This series is in on its fifth book now, and each is gripping, with a gothic feel. Plus the inclusion of a will-they-or-won’t-they romance is just delicious.
3'Among the Ruins' by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Ausma Zehanat Khan’s mystery series (which started with The Unquiet Dead), featuring Esa Khattak and his young partner Rachel Getty working on crimes sensitive to marginalized communities, is just excellent. The third book, Among the Ruins, is set in Iran, as Esa Khattak reconnects with his heritage, and uncovers a conspiracy connected to the Shah of Iran. Khan deftly weaves complex stories in her narratives, discussing difficult issues and cultural conflicts with grace and sensitivity.
4'The Shimmering Road' by Hester Young
The second in a planned trilogy, after The Gates of Evangeline, stars Charlotte “Charlie” Cates, who is convinced she’s lost her mind after she starts to have vivid dreams about children who are in danger. But are they just dreams, or does Charlie have some sort of gift? And if she does, who are these children and why are they in danger? As Charlie finds herself embroiled in a decades-old mystery, she knows she must find the truth about her dreams once and for all.
5'Clean Room, Vol. 2: Exile' by Gail Simone & Jon Davis-Hunt
This comic series — by iconic comics writer Gail Simone and artist Jon Davis-Hunt — features a cult surrounding a religion strikingly similar to Scientology. Chloe Pierce, a reporter, is investigating the organization, certain there’s more going on than meets the eye. She decides it’s time to expose its secrets — and those of its legendary founder, Astrid Mueller —once and for all. This is a twisty, creepy, get-in-your-head-and-never-leave comic series that’s now in its second volume, with a third releasing in June.
6'A Perilous Undertaking' by Deanna Raybourn
Veronica Speedwell might just be one of the most endearing heroines in mysteries, period. In this second installment in Raybourn’s excellent series (which began with A Curious Beginning), Veronica is woman ahead of her Victorian times. She’s smart, dashing, and entirely capable; though solving mysteries isn’t her primary occupation (she studies and collects butterflies by day), she’s incredibly perceptive and it comes naturally to her. Her sense of humor and chemistry with Stoker, her counterpart, just make this series even better.
7'A Darkness Absolute' by Kelley Armstrong
Kelley Armstrong is incredible at writing atmosphere, and it’s on full display in her Casey Duncan series, the first of which is City of the Lost. The second, A Darkness Absolute, released recently, and it follows Casey’s adventures. In the first book, Casey, a police officer, has a past she needs to hide from, and she finds her solution in Rockton, an off-the-grid town that provides an escape for people like her. In the second installment, Casey’s settled into her life as a Rockton police officer, but she still doesn’t quite know what horrors the woods around the town hold.
8'The Elusive Elixir' by Gigi Pandian
The third book in the series that began with The Accidental Alchemist, The Elusive Elixir features Zoe Faust, an herbalist who finds a stowaway in her luggage. The problem is that her new companion is a living, breathing gargoyle who needs her help. Pandian writes fun, light-hearted mysteries and is an expert at developing sympathetic characters, both major and minor. Her Jaya Jones mysteries, featuring a historian on treasure hunts, are also absolutely worth reading.
9'The Chalk Pit' by Elly Griffiths
The Chalk Pit isn’t out until the end of May, which gives you plenty of time to catch up one one of the most creative and inventive crime series currently being written. Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist working in the peat bogs near Norfolk, was first introduced in The Crossing Places, and nine books later, this series is still as gripping as it was when it first began. It’s easy for long series to fall into a rut, reusing plot-lines and resorting to tropes, but the creativity that Griffiths displays with every novel in this series ensures that each is fresh and new.