Being presented with a problem and finding the solution to it is one of the most basic and bare-bone pleasures known to us. It stimulates our creative thinking and instills in us an innate sense of accomplishment, even if it’s only the smallest of victories.
When the problem actually presents an intriguing puzzle, it can be as enjoyable as any non-problematic pleasure in life. I think as a whole, the human civilization has become somewhat addicted to solving puzzles of all kinds, and to supplement this incessant demand, authors have one day come up with the mystery genre, which today also encompasses thrillers.
Whether it’s theft, murder, disappearance, or some widespread conspiracy, mystery and thriller novels have always sought to entertain us by constantly pushing us to answer questions without obvious solutions and challenging our expectations with the real answers. There definitely are and will be more worthy books in this genre than I’ll ever get to read, but in here you will find the mystery and thriller novels which I did have the time to get acquainted with and believe are worthy of a greater spotlight.
Anthony Horowitz came up with one of the more creative literary ideas in recent memory with A Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery series, inserting himself as a main character in his own novels. In the fourth book, The Twist of a Knife, Anthony Horowitz finds himself falsely accused of murder, forcing him to turn to Detective Hawthorne for help, despite the two being newly-estranged.
Deanna Raybourn does tend to stick to the historical genre for the most part, but her forays outside of it often bear some remarkable fruits, as is the case with Killers of a Certain Age. The novel tells the story of Billie, Mary Alice, Helen and Natalie, four assassins with over forty years of experience behind their backs. In a world where no one values their skills anymore, they find themselves targeted for termination by their own order, but needless to say, it turns out to be a huge mistake.
Louise Penny is something of a modern Agatha Christie, and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache her Montreal-based Poirot. In the seventh book of the series, titled A Trick of the Light, we follow Gamache as he heads out to a tiny village in Quebec to investigate the murder of a reviled art critic. Minds from all over the art world are gathered there, guaranteeing only one thing: nothing is as it seems.
Paul Vidich has a keen mind for weaving together complex and captivating espionage stories, and in The Mercenary he takes us towards the end of the Cold War, a time of uncertainty and shifting allegiances. The story follows a KGB agent who got his hands on some top secret weapons intelligence and is attempting to get exfiltrated by the CIA. They’ve taken up the task, but are cautious in their approach, fearing he might be playing a game a lot more complex than he’s letting on.
Joseph Knox has taken the world of thrillers by storm with the first novel of the Aidan Waits Thriller series, and with True Crime Story he takes a side-step to write a standalone story. It follows the investigation conducted by a crime writer, the author himself, into a woman named Evenly Mitchell, who became obsessed with the disappearance of Zoe Nolan who, in 2011, walked out of her dorm room never to be seen again.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon has earned his title of the most successful contemporary Spanish author for good reason, his stories carrying the reader to places few authors could imagine. In The Shadow of the Wind, the first entry in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, Zafon tells the story of a young bookkeeper’s son in post-war Barcelona as he tries to unravel the tragic fate of Julian Carax, an author whose works someone has been systematically destroying.
Caimh McDonnell has always had the talent of dealing with death from a humorous perspective, and in The Final Game, his latest standalone novel, he returns to form with a plot centred on a recently-deceased woman, Dorothy Graham. Though she is gone from this world, she devised a competition for her relatives to engage in to determine who the inheritance will belong to, as well as having preemptively hired a detective agency to solve the mystery of her own murder.
Anthony Horowitz has solved some serious crimes as Daniel Hawthorne’s sidekick in A Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery series, and in the third book, A Line to Kill, they get embroiled in a murder mystery with a classic setup. The story has Daniel and Anthony staying at guests on an idyllic island off the coast of England for a literary festival, one harbouring a cold-blooded killer ready to set his plan in motion.
Brian O’Sullivan has put Quint Adler through three cases already, but only in this fourth one, titled Nine Days in Vegas, does he finally take up the official mantle of private investigator. His first case has him travelling to Sin City in search of Emmy Peters, a missing showgirl from a rich family, who also happened to be an aspiring novelist.
Louise Penny has defied time and time again any doubters as to her proficiency for coming up with more original mysteries for Chief Inspector Gamache to solve, and in the sixth book of the series, Bury Your Dead, he finds himself pushed to his limits. Recovering from a horribly-failed police operation, Gamache is drawn into the murder investigation surrounding a historical society in Quebec, and most surprisingly, Samuel de Champlain himself.
John Dunning has recently written a few mysteries revolving around books with a flair for the genre few can match. More precisely, he penned the Cliff Janeway Novels, and in the third entry in the series, The Bookman’s Promise, a complex mystery is afoot involving an old and lost collection of rare books, as well as a killer quite intent on letting secrets remain in the deep past.
Theodore Roszak was a significant literary figure in his heyday, publishing quite a few materials relating to the counterculture revolution. He also dabbled quite selectively in the realm of fiction, with Flicker being one of his more unique and outstanding works. It takes us into the now-forgotten realm of underground cinema before the advent of modern technology, following a movie buff’s search for a forgotten genius of the silver screen.
Louise Penny has created an unforgettable protagonist through A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery series, and in The Brutal Telling, the fifth book, the titular inspector returns to his favourite idyllic village of Three Pines. Yet another murder has shaken the community, this time the victim being a complete stranger found on the floor of the local bistro. The stories presented to the inspector are full of holes, and he soon finds himself wrapped in a spiderweb of mystery.
Louise Penny seems determined never to give Chief Inspector Gamache a moment of respite, and in the fourth book of the series, titled A Rule Against Murder, he finds himself drawn into an investigation while celebrating his wedding anniversary with Reine-Marie. The isolated manor they’re staying at is also host to family reunion, one which leaves a dead body behind in the wake of a storm.
Louise Penny has certainly drawn the little community of Three Pines from its relative forgotten obscurity in A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery series, and the third entry, The Cruelest Month, brings it right back to the foreground of Quebec news. Celebrating Easter, the people of Three Pines decide to hold a seance to clear the evil spirits, when one of them dies of fright. Foul play is nowhere to be found, but Gamache’s experience tells him otherwise.
John Dunning has become known in recent years for his ability as an author to integrate his love for books into his stories as pivotal plot elements. In The Bookman’s Wake, the second entry in the Cliff Janeway Novels series, we follow the cop-turned-bookdealer on his adventure to reign in a fugitive from Denver, one who possibly stole a priceless edition of Poe’s “The Raven”. To find the mysterious woman, he’ll have to delve deep into the strange past surrounding the book.
Louise Penny has brought the quaint streets of Quebec to the forefront of the literary world with her Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery series, and it was in large part due to the second novel, A Fatal Grace, winner of the 2007 Agatha Award for Best Novel. Following Chief Inspector Gamache once again, we are treated to his investigation into macabre Christmas murder in a picturesque Quebecois village.
Louise Penny, back in 2008, began something I’m sure even she had trouble anticipating, creating the first novel in the Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery series (now with sixteen entries and counting), titled Still Life. For his first time out under the sun, the inspector is tasked with a deceitful case, appearing like an open-and-shut tragic accident. Gamache, however, can feel there’s something dark and rotten hiding in the remote woods of Three Pines.
Frederick Forsyth might have very well written one of the absolute best criminal espionage novels when he published The Day of the Jackal back in 1971. Following a nameless English hitman known only as The Jackal, the story focuses on his methodical preparation to carry out what might be the most ambitious assassination of all time: killing Charles de Gaulle.
John Dunning has been working on his award-winning book-centred mystery series, the Cliff Janeway novels, for over two decades at this point, offering a taste of something unique in a sea of thrillers. The first novel which started it all, Booked to Die, introduces us to the Cliff Janeway as he first loses his badge by taking a bit of revenge on a murder suspect, and then opens a small bookshop while still searching for evidence to take the man down for good… and this is when more bodies start appearing.