Our picks for March 2020 include an amazing Scandinavian crime titled Victim 2117 by Danish author by Jussi Adler-Olsen, City of Margins by acclaimed neo-noir author William Boyle, and commercial thrillers such as Long Range by C.J. Box. These mystery and thriller books will surely bring joy to avid crime fiction and mystery readers.
Note: For our coverage of best crime, mystery, and thriller books of January and February 2020, please visit here and here.
What follows is our compiled list of latest and greatest for March 2020:
The Berlin Crossing by Kevin Brophy (March 1). BRANDENBURG 1993: The Berlin Wall is down, the country is reunified and thirty-year-old school teacher Michael Ritter feels his life is falling apart.
His wife has thrown him out, his new West German headmaster has fired him for being a socialist, former Party member and he is still clinging on to the wreckage of the state that shaped him. Disenfranchised and disenchanted, Michael heads home to care for his terminally ill mother.
Before she dies, she urges him to seek out an evangelical priest, Pastor Bruck, who is the only one who knows the truth about his father. When Michael eventually tracks him down, he is taken on a journey of dark discoveries, one which will shatter his foundations, but ultimately bring him hope to rebuild them.
Haunting and redemptive, The Berlin Crossing is a compelling, unique portrayal of one man’s struggle to understand his past, uncovering a powerful story of love and survival in sixties Stasi East Germany.
Victim 2117 (A Department Q Novel) by Jussi Adler-Olsen (March 3). The newspaper refers to the body only as Victim 2117—the two thousand one hundred and seventeenth refugee to die in the Mediterranean Sea. But to three people, the unnamed victim is so much more, and the death sets off a chain of events that throws Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold cases division led by Detective Carl Mørck, into a deeply dangerous—and deeply personal—case. A case that not only reveals dark secrets about the past, but has deadly implications for the future.
For troubled Danish teen Alexander, whose identity is hidden behind his computer screen, the death of Victim 2117 becomes a symbol of everything he resents and the perfect excuse to unleash his murderous impulses in real life. For Ghallib, one of the most brutal tormentors from Abu Ghraib—Saddam Hussein’s infamous prison—the death of Victim 2117 was the first step in a terrorist plot years in the making.
And for Department Q’s Assad, Victim 2117 is a link to his buried past—and the family he assumed was long dead.
With the help of the Department Q squad—Carl, Rose, and Gordon—Assad must finally confront painful memories from his years in the Middle East in order to find and capture Ghallib. But with the clock ticking down to Alexander’s first kill and Ghallib’s devastating attack, the thinly spread Department Q will need to stay one step ahead of their most lethal adversary yet if they are to prevent the loss of thousands of innocent lives.
Long Range by C.J. Box (March 3). When Joe Pickett is asked to join the rescue efforts for the victim of a startling grizzly attack, he reluctantly leaves his district behind. One survivor of the grizzly’s rampage tells a bizarre story, but just as Joe begins to suspect the attack is not what it seems, he is brought home by an emergency on his own turf.
Someone has targeted a prominent local judge, shooting at him from a seemingly impossible distance. While the judge was not hit, his wife is severely wounded, and it is up to Joe to find answers–and the shooter.
The search for the would-be assassin becomes personal when Joe’s best friend, Nate Romanowski –just as he’s adjusting to the arrival of his first child–falls under suspicion for the crime.
It’s a race against the clock as Joe tries to clear Nate’s name and identify the real shooter, all while deciphering the grizzly encounter. Beset by threats both man-made and natural, the two men must go to great lengths to keep their loved ones safe.
You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks; Sarah Pekkanen (March 3). The #1 New York Times bestselling authors of The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl return with a brand new novel of psychological suspense.
Shay Miller wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is increasingly lonely.
Until Shay meets the Moore sisters. Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better. Shay would die for them to like her. She may have to.
City of Margins by William Boyle (March 3). In City of Margins, the lives of several lost souls intersect in Southern Brooklyn in the early 1990s.
There’s Donnie Parascandolo, a disgraced ex-cop with blood on his hands; Ava Bifulco, a widow whose daily work grind is her whole life; Nick, Ava’s son, a grubby high school teacher who dreams of a shortcut to success; Mikey Baldini, a college dropout who’s returned to the old neighborhood, purposeless and drifting; Donna Rotante, Donnie’s ex-wife, still reeling from the suicide of their teenage son; Mikey’s mother, Rosemarie, also a widow, who hopes Mikey won’t fall into the trap of strong arm work; and Antonina Divino, a high school girl with designs on breaking free from Brooklyn.
Uniting them are the dead: Mikey’s old man, killed over a gambling debt, and Donnie and Donna’s poor son, Gabe. These characters cross paths in unexpected ways, guided by coincidence and the pull of blood. There are new things to be found in the rubble of their lives, too.
The promise of something different beyond the barriers that have been set out for them. This is a story of revenge and retribution, of facing down the ghosts of the past, of untold desires, of yearning and forgiveness and synchronicity, of the great distance of lives lived in dangerous proximity to each other. City of Margins is a Technicolor noir melodrama pieced together in broken glass.
The Twin by Natasha Preston (March 3). After their parents divorced, 10-year-old twins Ivy and Iris were split up–Ivy lived with Dad, Iris with Mom. Now, after a tragic accident takes their mom’s life, the twins are reunited and Iris moves in with Ivy and their dad. Devastated over Mom’s death, Iris spends the first few weeks in almost total silence–the only person she will speak to is Ivy. Iris feels her life is over and she doesn’t know what to do. Emmy promises her twin that she can share her life now. After all, they’re sisters. Twins.
It’s a promise that Iris takes seriously. And before long, Ivy’s friends, her life at school, and her boyfriend, Tyler, fall under Iris’s spell. Slowly, Ivy realizes she’s being pushed out of her own life. But she’s just being paranoid, right? And Mom’s accident was . . . just an accident. Right? It’s not like she–or Dad–or Tyler–are in any danger.
A Circle of Dead Girls by Eleanor Kuhns (March 3). The circus has arrived in Durham, Maine. Before weaver Will Rees is able to take in its spectacle, he spots Magistrate Hanson – the man he blames for his family’s having to flee Dugard two years earlier.
On his journey home he encounters Shaker brothers searching for a girl from their Zion community. Despite women not being allowed inside the circus, Leah had snuck out to visit it. They quickly come across her lifeless body beaten and thrown into a farmer’s field on the road leading to the circus.
Bored of his household chores, Rees begins investigating at the expense of his home life. He becomes entranced by the lives of the circus performers, including the charismatic horse rider and tightrope walker. Is his longing for his old journeyman’s life causing him to take his eye off the case, and can he stay out of Hanson’s way and keep his family safe?
Lavender Blue Murder by Laura Childs (March 3). Tea maven Theodosia Browning and her tea sommelier Drayton Conneley are guests at a bird hunt styled in the precise manner of an English shooting party. Which means elevenses (sloe gin fizzes), gun loaders, the drawing of pegs, fine looking bird dogs, and shooting costumes of tweed, herringbone, and suede.
But as gunshots explode like a riff of Black Cat firecrackers, another shot sounds too close for comfort to Theodosia and Drayton. Intrigued but worried, Theodosia wanders into the neighbor’s lavender field where she discovers their host, Reginald Doyle, bleeding to death.
His wife, Meredith, is beside herself with grief and begs Theodosia and Drayton to stay the night. But Theodosia awakens at 2:00A.M. to find smoke in her room and the house on fire. As the fire department screams in and the investigating sheriff returns, Meredith again pleads with Theodosia for help.
As Theodosia investigates, fingers are pointed, secrets are uncovered, Reginald’s daughter-in-law goes missing presumed drowned, and Meredith is determined to find answers via a séance. All the while Theodosia worries if she’s made a mistake in inviting a prime suspect to her upscale Lavender Lady Tea.
The Hook by Tim O’Mara (March 3). Teacher Raymond Donne finds himself embroiled in another baffling murder case when his friend MoJo is found dead on the school roof, pierced by an arrow.
On the rooftop of Raymond Donne’s school, Maurice ‘MoJo’ Joseph’s lifeless body is found with an arrow sticking out of its back.
Mojo had recently gone through drug rehab, but was turning his life around. He had a baby on the way while also working at the school and for a security company. But was he so clean? Heroin was found in his system and in his possession, and he’d been secretly carrying out security work for a notorious White Nationalist.
Donne’s ex-cop instincts tell him something doesn’t add up. When Allison Rogers, an online journalist and Donne’s long-time girlfriend, runs insider stories from a runaway of the White Nationalists and a mysterious man turns up saying MoJo was working for him, Donne takes it upon himself, with the help of his techno-friend Edgar, to investigate. What was MoJo up to, and was he back to his old ways?
The Keeper by Jessica Moor (March 10). An addictive literary thriller about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace.
When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police are ready to write it off as a standard-issue female suicide. But the residents of the domestic violence shelter where Katie worked disagree. These women have spent weeks or even years waiting for the men they’re running from to catch up with them. They know immediately: This was murder.
Still, Detective Dan Whitworth and his team expect an open-and-shut case–until they discover evidence that suggests Katie wasn’t who she appeared. Weaving together the investigation with Katie’s final months as it barrels toward the truth, The Keeper is a riveting mystery and a searing examination of violence against women and the structures that allow it to continue, marking the debut of an incredible new voice in crime fiction.
A Reasonable Doubt (A Robin Lockwood Novel) by Phillip Margolin (March 10). Robin Lockwood is a young criminal defense attorney and partner in a prominent law firm in Portland, Oregon. A former MMA fighter and Yale Law graduate, she joined the firm of legal legend Regina Barrister not long before Regina was forced into retirement by early onset Alzheimer’s.
One of Regina’s former clients, Robert Chesterfield, shows up in the law office with an odd request—he’s seeking help from his old attorney in acquiring patent protection for an illusion. Chesterfield is a professional magician of some reknown and he has a major new trick he’s about to debut.
This is out of the scope of the law firm’s expertise, but when Robin Lockwood looks into his previous relationship with the firm, she learns that twenty years ago he was arrested for two murders, one attempted murder, and was involved in the potentially suspicious death of his very rich wife. At the time, Regina Barrister defended him with ease, after which he resumed his career as a magician in Las Vegas.
Now, decades later, he debuts his new trick—only to disappear at the end. He’s a man with more than one dark past and many enemies—is his disappearance tied to one of the many people who have good reason to hate him? Was he killed and his body disposed of, or did he use his considerable skills to engineer his own disappearance? Robin Lockwood must unravel the tangled skein of murder and bloody mischief to learn how it all ties together.
The Bramble and the Rose (A Henry Farrell Novel) by Tom Bouman (March 10). A headless stranger is found in the woods of Wild Thyme, a small town in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. All signs point to a man-killing bear, and Officer Henry Farrell would just as soon leave this hunt to the Game Commission.
But doubts arise when he discovers the victim was a retired investigator. What drew the investigator to sleepy Wild Thyme? Before Henry can find answers, his own nephew disappears into the hills. Then an old flame dies under suspicious circumstances, leaving Henry as the prime suspect. Torn between protecting his family and clearing his name, Henry fights to protect the most he’s ever had to lose.
She Lover of Death (A Fandorin Mystery) by Boris Akunin (March 13). From Boris Akunin, the writer who invented the popular Russian crime novel, a gripping tale of a secret suicide society in turn-of-the-century Moscow featuring a naïve young protagonist and the inimitable hero Erast Fandorin.
Naive young Masha Mironova arrives in Moscow at the turn of the century with a modest inheritance and a determination to shed her provincial Siberian upbringing. As soon as she alights in Moscow, she becomes Columbine, a reckless and daring young woman with eccentric outfits and a pet snake worn as a necklace.
In her quest for danger and passion, Columbine soon discovers the Lovers of Death―a small group of poets enraptured by death who gather nightly at the home of their leader, the Doge, and conduct séances to determine death’s next chosen lover. Once named at a séance, the chosen member must await three signs from death before taking his own life. The string of suicides resulting from the group have drawn attention, becoming fodder for extensive media coverage and widespread hysteria in Moscow.
As the group’s numbers dwindle, a mysterious newcomer appears. Revealed to the reader as Erast Fandorin thanks to the presence of his trusty Japanese sidekick, Fandorin begins to investigate the suicides while also trying to convince the members that death is neither beautiful nor poetic and should not be sought out.
But will the gentleman detective be able to stop Columbine from taking action when she receives her three unmistakable signs? She Lover of Death is a fantastically entertaining murder mystery, where the murderer’s weapons are trickery and psychological manipulation.
88 Names by Matt Ruff (March 17). John Chu is a “sherpa”—a paid guide to online role-playing games like the popular Call to Wizardry. For a fee, he and his crew will provide you with a top-flight character equipped with the best weapons and armor, and take you dragon-slaying in the Realms of Asgarth, hunting rogue starships in the Alpha Sector, or battling hordes of undead in the zombie apocalypse.
Chu’s new client, the pseudonymous Mr. Jones, claims to be a “wealthy, famous person” with powerful enemies, and he’s offering a ridiculous amount of money for a comprehensive tour of the world of virtual-reality gaming. For Chu, this is a dream assignment, but as the tour gets underway, he begins to suspect that Mr. Jones is really North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, whose interest in VR gaming has more to do with power than entertainment.
As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Chu also has to worry about “Ms. Pang,” who may or may not be an agent of the People’s Republic of China, and his angry ex-girlfriend, Darla Jean Covington, who isn’t the type to let an international intrigue get in the way of her own plans for revenge.
What begins as a whirlwind online adventure soon spills over into the real world. Now Chu must use every trick and resource at his disposal to stay one step ahead—because in real life, there is no reset button.
Two Lives (Tales of Life, Love and Crime. Stories from China) by A Yi (March 26). Seven stories, seven whispers into the ears of life: A Yi’s unexpected twists of crime burst from the everyday, with glimpses of romance distorted by the weaknesses of human motive. A Yi employs his forensic skills to offer a series of portraits of modern life, both uniquely Chinese, and universal in their themes.
His years as a police officer serve him well as he teases the truth from simple observation, now brought into the English language in a masterful translation by Alex Woodend. The stories include Two Lives, Attic, Spring, Bach, Predator. The first in the new Flame Tree Press series, Stories from China.
Like Flies from Afar by K. Ferrari (March 24). The first novel to appear in English by the “subway janitor by night, novelist by day,” who began his writing career while an undocumented immigrant in the United States, Like Flies from Afar will demonstrate why K. Ferrari is already an award-winning star of international crime fiction. A hardboiled noir thriller, a whodunit, a black comedy, and a filthy catalog of the excesses of wealth, this is a Jim Thompson novel for the globalized world.
Mr. Luis Machi is an unforgettably loathsome and hilarious Argentinian oligarch who made his fortune collaborating with the worst elements of society―parasites, pushers, and secret policemen.
He has a cocaine habit, a collection of three hundred ties, ten million dollars in the bank, and a bloody corpse in the trunk of his BMW…but as far as the body goes, he’s completely innocent. He has no idea who the victim could be, or who among his many, many enemies might be trying to frame him for murder, and he doesn’t have much time to find out . . .
The profane and uproarious Like Flies from Afar follows Machi through twenty-four hours of his eventful life―one full day in which to solve this mystery, or at least to make sure he isn’t the one to take the fall.
Gone with the Whisker by Laurie Cass (March 31). It’s the summer season in Chilson, Michigan, and the town is packed with tourists ready for a fabulous Fourth of July fireworks show. Minnie Hamilton and her rescue cat, Eddie, have spent a busy day on the bookmobile, delivering good cheer and great reads to even the library’s most far-flung patrons. But Minnie is still up for the nighttime festivities, eager to show off her little town to her visiting niece, Katrina.
But then, during the grand finale of the fireworks display, Katrina discovers a body. Minnie recognizes the victim as one of the bookmobile’s most loyal patrons. And she knows she—and Eddie—will have to get to the bottom of this purr-fect crime.