The Best Books of 2021: Mysteries

From The Wall Street Journal:

Our Mystery columnist selects the best new works of mystery, suspense and crime fiction for 2021.

The Dark Hours’ by Michael Connelly

Retired LAPD detective Harry Bosch, the hero of many a Michael Connelly procedural, shares billing on the dust jacket with Renée Ballard, a younger active-duty officer whose passion for justice matches his, but this is Ballard’s book, with Bosch giving moral and physical support. The novel’s title refers not only to the late-evening shift Renée works but also to the malaise fallen over L.A. in the wake of protests over police abuse, in the thick of the Covid pandemic. Ballard carries on regardless, pursuing a “tag team” of serial rapists even as she hustles to make the case against the New Year’s Eve killer of a Hollywood auto-repair shop owner. Sharp observations of characters, from victims to perpetrators, make this entry a standout.

Find You First’ by Linwood Barclay

Forty-two-year-old self-made multimillionaire Miles Cookson is enjoying life to the fullest until he learns it will end sooner than expected, due to a debilitating inherited disease. Officially childless, he nonetheless feels the prick of conscience: during his scuffling days, he donated sperm to a fertility clinic. Shouldn’t he contact any kids he may have sired, to warn them of their possible genetic ill fortune and provide for their medical care? Others in Cookson’s family and business are alarmed at how this may diminish their own eventual inheritances. Soon shady agents are shadowing Cookson and those offspring he locates; and Miles’s newfound children begin to vanish as if they’d never existed. Linwood Barclay can plot like Dickens and thrill like Hitchcock.

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‘The Turnout’ by Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott’s first-rate thrillers take place in sealed-off environments, where characters’ passions and resentments simmer in dangerous ways. “The Turnout” is set in a young people’s dance school run by two orphaned sisters, Dara and Marie, and Dara’s husband, Charlie. The school’s course of study is focused on its annual production of “The Nutcracker,” with students (pushed forward by ambitious parents) competing all season for the prominent roles. Into this hothouse of jealousy slithers Derek, a manipulative contractor who talks the school’s owners into an expensive makeover that strains frayed nerves to the breaking point. Family secrets are revealed, malicious pranks draw blood, and terror erupts in a manner worthy of Patricia Highsmith or Shirley Jackson.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal, including links to the original reviews. (PG apologizes if you hit a paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

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