If your reading life could use a little more dark and twisted, you’ve come to the right place. Murder and Mayhem is a recurring feature in which I talk about some of the mysteries and thrillers I’ve read recently. Dust off your magnifying glass, don your deerstalker cap, and get ready to fly through these page-turning reads.
This time I’ve got for you a small-town mystery, a stellar courtroom drama, a spy novel starring a black woman, and a historical murder mystery. Bonus, all these mysteries were written by women of color!
Fallen Mountains by Kimi Cunningham Grant
A small-town mystery where one man’s disappearance threatens to unravel ALL the secrets. Everybody’s hiding something, including the sheriff. I loved how the central mystery of the missing person case spirals out to ensnare the other characters—it’s a thorny mess, just like real life, and I had a blast analyzing who was hiding what and what their motivations might be.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
A fatal explosion in a hyperbaric chamber leads to a woman on trial for murdering her own child—but as shifting perspectives soon show, pretty much no one is telling the truth about what happened that night. Not only is Miracle Creek a super suspenseful courtroom drama, it also asks big questions, like what does it mean to be a good mother? I devoured this as quickly as my schedule would allow. Perfect for fans of Celeste Ng.
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
I’ve never gotten into spy novels because I don’t really want more alpha white male energy in my life, but THIS spy novel is about a black woman working undercover in the 1980s! Now that I can get behind. Marie is sent to Burkina Faso to undermine the Communist leader Thomas Sankara, but her goals get clouded when she gets to know the man behind the image. The book is written as a letter to her children, which is a really effective device, and I swear I couldn’t tell from one page to the next where anyone’s loyalties lay or who was going to double cross whom.
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
This is a historical mystery about a former slave on trial for murder, yes, but more than that, it’s the most scathing indictment of white fragility I’ve ever read. Frances worked as a housemaid and is now on trial for killing her employers. She claims not to remember what happened the night in question, but she’s actually hiding much more guilt and shame that go back years and years, all the way back to her time on a plantation in Jamaica, when her master used her as a pawn in barbaric experiments. Not a light or easy read by any means, but an important one.