Best Mystery Books of 2021: Recommended by Bestselling Authors
If you’re a true-blue MASTERPIECE Mystery! fan, you probably make a beeline for the mystery section at the bookstore, too! We’ve assembled new mystery novel recommendations from some of the best mystery writers out there. Each author suggests a title published this year—one they think our audience will love. Dig in!
Pickard County Atlas: A Novel by Chris Harding Thornton (Recommended by Tana French)
“My favorite mystery of 2021 so far is Pickard County Atlas. In a hot summer in 1970s small-town Nebraska, sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen finds himself dragged into the decades-old tangles of a family, and a community, still scarred by a murder. I like atmospheric books that give me a rich sense of places I don’t know, I like characters who are full and complicated, I like mysteries that take their time unfurling and building, I like books that weave together multiple points of view to give different angles on the story, I like sharp edges of humor in the middle of darkness, and I like beautiful prose. This book has all of those.”
Tana French is the author of The Searcher (2020) and seven previous books, including In the Woods, The Likeness, and The Witch Elm. Her novels have won numerous awards, including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby (Recommended by Walter Mosley)
“Read Razorblade Tears by S.A.Cosby. His writing is both swift and deep—he takes you into the heart of his Virginia. You won’t forget his voice or his characters. And while this is a story about revenge and redemption, and the pages fly by as you read, at its heart are two fathers, one white, one black, with not a lot in common except their regrets and grief. The journey these two set off on is startling, violent, and revelatory, filled with dialogue that rings true, both the banter and the silences. The result is an astounding novel that lets you ride shotgun with these two men through a complicated South.”
Walter Mosley is the author of over 60 critically acclaimed books of fiction, nonfiction, memoir and plays. His work has been translated into 25 languages. His books have been adapted for film and TV and his short fiction and nonfiction essays have been published in a wide range of outlets from The New York Times to The Nation. Mosley has won numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, a Grammy®, NAACP Image awards, PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists) America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2020 Robert Kirsch Award, and the National Book Award’s Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
Girl A: A Novel by Abigail Dean (Recommended by Karin Slaughter)
“Girl A follows Lex Gracie, a now-grown woman who, as a teenager, escaped her family’s house of horrors and helped to free her younger siblings from their cruelly abusive parents. When her mother dies, Lex is forced back to her childhood town to execute her mother’s will, which means dealing with the family home. But that won’t be easy because the trauma that Lex and her siblings suffered is far from healed. The siblings are forced to confront their shared and individual pasts—and even so, they may never be able to lay the past to rest. This is an absorbing and compelling read that kept me captivated from beginning to end.”
Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 40 million copies sold across the globe, her 21 novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant New York Times bestselling standalone novels Pretty Girls, The Good Daughter, and Pieces of Her. Slaughter is the founder of the Save the Libraries project—a nonprofit organization established to support libraries and library programming. A native of Georgia, she lives in Atlanta.
The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson (Recommended by Anthony Horowitz)
“Ragnar Jónasson is a master of Scandi noir and this chilling, clever story shows him at his very best. The central character, Una, has taken a teaching job in the remote village of Skálar and finds herself trapped in a tiny community which is clearly hiding many secrets. Murder and drug smuggling are part of the story, but Una also finds herself living in a house which seems to be haunted by a young girl dressed in white. This sort of cross-genre storytelling is extremely hard to pull off but Jónasson manages it masterfully. It’s a story that will linger with you long after you’ve reached the last page.”
Anthony Horowitz is one of the most prolific and successful writers in the UK—and is unique for working across so many media—writing books, television, films, plays and journalism. He is the author of the bestselling teen spy series Alex Rider. His award-winning novel Magpie Murders was released in 2016 to critical acclaim and will be seen on MASTERPIECE Mystery!
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (Recommended by S.A. Cosby)
“Arsenic and Adobo is a charmingly fascinating quaint mystery novel that centers on Lila Macapagal, a Filipino-American baker who returns to her hometown after a difficult break-up. Soon she is trying to save her aunt’s restaurant, deal with an old flame and solve a not so simple murder. Manansala combines the best aspects of Agatha Christie and Aurora Teagarden for a mystery that is a perfect recipe of cozy, sassy and oh so tricky. Manansala’s book is one of my favorites of 2021.”
S.A. Cosby is the New York Times’ bestselling author of Razorblade Tears and Blacktop Wasteland. Blacktop Wasteland won The Anthony Award 2021, Best Novel; The Barry Awards 2021, Best Novel; International Thriller Writers (ITW) 2021, Best Hardcover Novel; a Macavity Award 2021; and a Los Angeles Times Book Award, Best Mystery 2020. A writer from Southeastern VA, Cosby’s short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. His writing is influenced by his experience as a bouncer, construction worker, retail manager and, for six hours, a mascot for a major fast-food chain inside the world’s hottest costume. When he isn’t crafting tales of murder and mayhem, he assists the dedicated staff at J.K. Redmond Funeral Home as a mortician’s assistant.
Hyde: A Novel by Craig Russell (Recommended by Ian Rankin)
“A gothic chiller set in Scotland in Victorian times; Hyde‘s hero is a detective called Edward Hyde who seems to have some serious psychological issues but who nevertheless must discover the identity of a gruesome murderer stalking the foggy night-time streets of Edinburgh. If the name Hyde rings a bell, it is because Russell is playing with themes (and characters) first seen in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic ‘Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. But you don’t have to have read that story to enjoy this one. Russell writes a pacy, ever-twisting mystery that will keep you turning the pages.”
Ian Rankin is an Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Rebus series, set in contemporary Edinburgh, Scotland. His latest title is A Song for the Dark Times.
All that is Secret by Patricia Raybon (Recommended by Sujata Massey)
“I recommend All that is Secret, the first in a new historical mystery series set in 1920s Colorado. The book’s heroine, Annalee Spain, is a young Black professor of theology with a penchant for Sherlock Holmes stories. Annalee is summoned from Chicago to her hometown of Denver to help uncover the truth about the death of her father and others connected to the Mount Moriah AME Church. It’s a fast-moving story that’s rich with romance and spiritual searching, and sumptuous descriptions of 1920s fashion, buildings and culture.”
Sujata Massey was born in England to parents from India and Germany, grew up in St. Paul, MN, and lives in Baltimore, MD. She was a features reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun before becoming a full-time novelist. The first Perveen Mistry novel, The Widows of Malabar Hill, was an international bestseller and won the Agatha, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards. Her latest title is The Bombay Prince.