Our picks for best crime, mystery and thriller books of February 2021 include the new IQ novel Smoke by Joe Ide, The Survivors by Australian author Jane Harper, and the new espionage thriller Relentless by Mark Greaney.
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 in January 2021, please visit here).
Ghosts of the Past by Mark Downer (February 2). An action-packed World War II historical fiction thriller that takes the reader around the world and a peek into the underworld of international art dealing.
In the spring of 1945, on the eve of the Allied victory in war-torn Europe, an unmarked German transport plane crash lands deep in the rugged Swiss Alps, and with it is buried one of the greatest single collections of World War II stolen artwork never recovered. Lying undisturbed in its rocky tomb for over half a century, a family member’s deathbed disclosure and war memorabilia hold the key to the existence and dormant location of this incredible treasure.
Subsequently, one man’s quest to locate the crash site is unwittingly exposed, and the race to recover the find of a lifetime becomes a fast-paced, action-packed adventure that weaves together an eclectic cast of characters in an international web of intrigue, murder, mystery, and surprise.
American advertising executive Matt Ferguson, determined to track down his great uncle’s mysterious legacy, enlists the help of a beautiful art expert, Courtney Lewis. They immediately become embroiled in a local murder investigation that draws them together to save not only a piece of history but ultimately their lives.
Pursuing them is a cold-blooded killer and his henchmen, representing the past and present generations of the German Nazi party, and also gangsters dispatched by a multi-millionaire South American boss, whose passion is acquiring art by any means necessary. As Ferguson and Lewis struggle and maneuver to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, their relationship swells through ups and downs of trust, mistrust, mutual attraction, deception, and, finally, shared mission.
The dogged persistence of a city homicide detective determined to solve a triple murder, and his ability to knit together an international police effort as the scope of his investigation explodes, are the last component affecting the thrill of the chaotic chase and the excitement of the climax.
A Plot for Murder (A Father Frank Mystery) by James R. Callan (February 2). Rod Granet, award-winning novelist and womanizer, is the main speaker at a writers conference. But after the opening session and in front of a crowd, Maggie DeLuca, Father Frank’s sister, accuses Granet of stealing her story and says he will pay for it.
That night, Granet is killed. The sheriff quickly zeros in on Maggie and she is hauled off in handcuffs. When Father Frank comes to her aid, the sheriff threatens him with jail if he interferes. A Texas Ranger is assigned to the investigation. Soon he sees Father Frank as a valuable asset.
Even as the sheriff continues to threaten Father Frank and interrogate Maggie, the Ranger pushes Father Frank to get involved, telling him the sheriff considers Maggie his only suspect. Can Father Frank stay out of jail and alive, long enough to find the real killer?
Muse by Brittany Cavallaro (February 2). American Royals meets The Winner’s Curse in the first book of a dazzling duology from New York Times bestselling author Brittany Cavallaro about revolution, love, and friendship in a reimagined American monarchy.
The year is 1893, and war is brewing in the First American Kingdom. But Claire Emerson has a bigger problem. Claire’s father is a sought-after inventor, but he believes his genius is a gift granted to him by his daughter’s touch, so he keeps Claire under his control.
As their province prepares for war, Claire plans to escape, even as her best friend, Beatrix, tries to convince her to stay and help with the growing resistance movement that wants to see a woman on the throne.
When her father’s weapon fails to fire on the World’s Fair’s opening day, Claire is taken captive by Governor Remy Duchamp, St. Cloud’s young, untried ruler. Remy believes that Claire’s touch bestows graces he’s never had, and with political rivals planning his demise, Claire might be his only ally.
The last thing that Claire has ever wanted is to be someone else’s muse, but she finally has a choice: Will she quietly remake her world from the shadows—or bring it down in flames?
The Survivors by Jane Harper (February 2). Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.
The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home. Kieran’s parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.
When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away.
Girl A by Abigail Dean (February 2). Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped, the eldest sister who freed her older brother and four younger siblings.
It’s been easy enough to avoid her parents–her father never made it out of the House of Horrors he created, and her mother spent the rest of her life behind bars. But when her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the home into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her siblings–and with the childhood they shared.
What begins as a propulsive tale of escape and survival becomes a gripping psychological family story about the shifting alliances and betrayals of sibling relationships–about the secrets our siblings keep, from themselves and each other. Who have each of these siblings become? How do their memories defy or galvanize Lex’s own? As Lex pins each sibling down to agree to her family’s final act, she discovers how potent the spell of their shared family mythology is, and who among them remains in its thrall and who has truly broken free.
For readers of Room and Sharp Objects, an absorbing and psychologically immersive novel about a young girl who escapes captivity–but not the secrets that shadow the rest of her life.
The Plague Court Murders (A Sir Henry Merrivale Mystery) by John Dickson Carr (February 2). When a spiritual medium is murdered in a locked hut on a haunted estate, Sir Henry Merrivale seeks a logical solution to a ghostly crime
Plague Court is old and crumbling, long neglected after its lord, hangman’s assistant Louis Playge, fell victim to the black death hundreds of years before. Famously haunted by Playge’s ghost, the property finally has a new owner and banishing the spirit is the first order of business. And when the medium employed with this task is found stabbed to death in a locked stone hut on the grounds, surrounded by an untouched circle of mud, the other guests at Plague Court have every reason to fear an act of supernatural violence―for who among them would be diabolical and calculating enough to orchestrate such an impossible execution?
Enter Sir Henry Merrivale, an amateur sleuth of many talents with deductive powers strong enough to unspool even the most baffling crimes. But in the creepy, atmospheric setting of Plague Court, where every indication suggests intervention from the afterlife, he encounters a seemingly-illogical murder scene unlike anything he’s ever encountered before…
Reissued for the first time in thirty years, The Plague Court Murders is the first novel in the Sir Henry Merrivale series. Originally published under the name Carter Dickson, it is a masterful example of the “impossible crime” novel for which John Dickson Carr is known.
Blink of an Eye by Roy Johansen; Iris Johansen (February 2). Delilah Winter is one of the hottest pop stars on the planet, so how in the world was she kidnapped right in the middle of a show at the famous Hollywood Bowl? If anyone can figure it out, it’s Dr. Kendra Michaels, who works with local and federal authorities on only the most impossible cases.
Blind for the first twenty years of her life until a revolutionary surgical procedure allowed her to regain her sight, Kendra uses her powers of observation—honed during her years in the dark—to detect what other investigators don’t. She agrees to lead the race to rescue the young singer before time runs out.
Joined by Jessie Mercado, the singer’s former bodyguard and a military hero, Kendra closes in on the hideout location but not before casualties mount up. Desperate for leads, Kendra must set aside her personal feelings when agent-for-hire Adam Lynch also volunteers his special skills to aid in the search.
But as the abductor’s true purpose becomes clear, the trio uncover a plot they never could have imagined—leading to a showdown they won’t soon forget.
The Obsession by Jesse Q Sutanto (February 2). Nobody knows Delilah like Logan does. Nobody. He makes sure of it by learning everything he can through her social media and watching her through a hidden camera he has trained on her house. Some might call him a stalker. Logan prefers to be called “romantic”.
But after Logan sees Delilah killing her abusive stepfather, he realizes there’s still more about her to discover. His sweet, perfect Delilah isn’t so perfect after all.
Delilah knows she should feel guilty, but all she feels is free. She’s so over the men in her life controlling her. Except Logan saw what she did, and he won’t let her forget it.
Delilah is done being the victim. And she refuses to be a character in Logan’s twisted fantasy. If Logan won’t let her go…she’ll make him.
Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano (February 2). Finlay Donovan is killing it…except, she’s really not. She’s a stressed-out single-mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: the new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her, and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.
When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer, and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet . . . Soon, Finlay discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.
Fast-paced, deliciously witty, and wholeheartedly authentic in depicting the frustrations and triumphs of motherhood in all its messiness, hilarity, and heartfelt moments, Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is the first in a brilliant new series from award-winning author Elle Cosimano.
Killer Content by Olivia Blacke (February 2). Bayou transplant Odessa Dean has a lot to learn about life in Brooklyn. So far she’s scored a rent free apartment in one of the nicest neighborhoods around by cat-sitting, and has a new job working at Untapped Books & Café. Hand-selling books and craft beers is easy for Odessa, but making new friends and learning how to ride the subway? Well, that might take her a little extra time.
But things turn more sour than an IPA when the death of a fellow waitress goes viral, caught on camera in the background of a couple’s flash-mob proposal video. Nothing about Bethany’s death feels right to Odessa–neither her sudden departure mid-shift nor the clues that only Odessa seems to catch. As an up-and-coming YouTube star, Bethany had more than one viewer waiting for her to fall from grace.
Determined to prove there’s a killer on the loose, Odessa takes matters into her own hands. But can she pin down Bethany’s killer before they take Odessa offline for good?
The Weak Spot by Lucie Elven (February 9). A woman discovers something toxic at work in the isolated village where she is apprenticing as a pharmacist, in this fable-like novel about power, surveillance, prescriptions, and cures by a captivating debut voice.
On a remote mountaintop somewhere in Europe, accessible only by an ancient funicular, a small pharmacy sits on a square. As if attending confession, townspeople carry their ailments and worries through its doors, in search of healing, reassurance, and a witness to their bodies and their lives.
One day, a young woman arrives in the town to apprentice under its charismatic pharmacist, August Malone. She slowly begins to lose herself in her work, lulled by stories and secrets shared by customers and colleagues. But despite her best efforts to avoid thinking and feeling altogether, as her new boss rises to the position of mayor, she begins to realize that something sinister is going on around her.
The Weak Spot is a fable about our longing for cures, answers, and an audience–and the ways it will be exploited by those who silently hold power in our world.
Murder With a View by Diane Kelly (February 9). Carpenter Whitney Whitaker, her cousin Buck, and guard-cat Sawdust just scored a hot property near downtown Nashville in a tax sale. While the Music City Motor Court might not be much to look at now, the two plan to transform the motel’s twelve units into six one-bedroom condominiums with popular mid-century styling. But surprises await when Whitney discovers a squatter living in Room 9 and her cat Sawdust uncovers a body in the bed next door.
The murder victim is none other than Beckett Morgan, an up-and-coming country-western singing sensation who’s taken Nashville by storm with his number-one hit “Party in the Pasture.” Beckett’s left a long trail of broken promises and broken hearts, and the list of suspects seems endless. So does the line of female fans intent on halting the flip and turning the construction site into a shrine for the deceased star.
If Whitney and Buck don’t help Detective Collin Flynn nail the killer, they’ll never be able to clear out the star-obsessed groupies, complete the remodel, and recoup their investment. But just who silenced the singer and why?
The Power Couple by Alex Berenson (February 9). Rebecca and Brian Unsworth appear to have it all. A nice house in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Two well-behaved, healthy teenage children. Important government jobs—Rebecca working in counterterrorism for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Brian serving as a coder for the National Security Agency. Their lives stand to improve even more as Brian, in his off-hours, has just developed and sold a highly profitable app.
However, the Unsworths’ marriage isn’t as perfect as it seems. After two decades together, they’ve drifted apart, talking little and having sex even less. Seeking to revive their strained relationship, they decide for their twentieth wedding anniversary to take their two kids, Kira and Tony, on a European getaway.
They have a blast…until one night in Barcelona when Kira doesn’t come home from a dance club. She’s gone. Abducted. Over the course of a single weekend, the Unsworths will do everything possible to find her—as Kira herself discovers just how far she’ll go to break free of the trap that’s been set for her. And even as Rebecca and Brian come together for Kira, they realize their marriage is more tenuous than they realized.
Margaret Truman’s Murder on the Metro by Margaret Truman; Jon Land (February 16). Israel: A drone-based terrorist attack kills dozens on a sun-splashed beach in Caesarea.
Washington: America awakens to the shattering news that Vice President Stephanie Davenport has died of an apparent heart attack.
That same morning, a chance encounter on the Washington Metro results in international private investigator Robert Brixton thwarting an attempted terrorist bombing. Brixton has no reason to suspect that the three incidents have anything in common, until he’s contacted by Kendra Rendine, the Secret Service agent who headed up the vice president’s security detail. Rendine is convinced the vice president was murdered and needs Brixton’s investigative expertise to find out why.
In Israel, meanwhile, legendary anti-terrorist fighter Lia Ganz launches her own crusade against the perpetrators of that attack which nearly claimed the lives of her and granddaughter. Ganz’s trail will ultimately take her to Washington where she joins forces with Brixton to uncover an impossible link between the deadly attack on Caesarea and the attempted Metro bombing, as well as the death of the vice president.
The connection lies in the highest corridors of power in Washington where a deadly plot with unimaginable consequences has been hatched. With the clock ticking toward doomsday, Brixton and Ganz race against time to save millions of American lives who will otherwise become collateral damage to a conspiracy destined to change the United States forever.
The Searching Dead by Ramsey Campbell (February 16). 1952. On a school trip to France teenager Dominic Sheldrake begins to suspect his teacher Christian Noble has reasons to be there as secret as they’re strange. Meanwhile a widowed neighbor joins a church that puts you in touch with your dead relatives, who prove much harder to get rid of.
As Dominic and his friends Roberta and Jim investigate, they can’t suspect how much larger and more terrible the link between these mysteries will become. A monstrous discovery beneath a church only hints at terrors that are poised to engulf the world as the trilogy brings us to the present day.
Relentless by Mark Greaney (February 16). Intelligence operatives around the world are disappearing. When a missing American agent re-appears in Venezuela, Court Gentry, the Gray Man, is dispatched to bring him in, but a team of assassins has other ideas. Court escapes with his life and a vital piece of intelligence.
Meanwhile, CIA agent Zoya Zakharova is in Berlin. Her mission: to infiltrate a private intelligence firm with some alarming connections. The closer she gets to answers, the less likely she is to get out alive.
Court and Zoya are just two pieces on this international chessboard, and they’re about to discover one undeniable truth—sometimes capturing a king requires sacrificing some pawns.
Smoke by Joe Ide (February 23). Isaiah Quintabe is no longer IQ, the genius of East Long Beach; instead, he’s a man on the road and on the run, hiding in a small Northern California town when his room is broken into by a desperate young man on the trail of the state’s most prolific serial killer.
His old partner, Juanell Dodson, must go straight or lose his wife and child. His devil’s bargain? An internship at an LA advertising agency, where it turns out the rules of the street have simply been dressed in business casual, but where the aging company’s fortunes may well rest on their ability to attract a younger demographic. Dodson—”the hustler’s hustler”—just may be the right man for the job.
Ide is the crime writer’s crime writer, and he’s filled his best novel yet with desperate souls, courageous outcasts, an ex-stripper who’ll do anything to protect her son, and wild half-brothers who may be the very incarnation of evil.
With deft plotting, lacerating humor, and a keen eye for the ways in which characters rise or fall based on their ties to one another, Smoke is Joe Ide’s crowning achievement.
Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke (February 23). Hannah’s up to her ears with Easter orders rushing in at The Cookie Jar, plus a festive meal to prepare for a dinner party at her mother’s penthouse. But everything comes crashing to a halt when Hannah receives a panicked call from her sister Andrea–Mayor Richard Bascomb has been murdered and she’s the prime suspect.
Even with his reputation for being a bully, Mayor Bascomb–or “Ricky Ticky,” as Hannah’s mother likes to call him–had been unusually testy in the days leading up to his death, leaving Hannah to wonder if he knew he was in danger. Meanwhile, folks with a motive for mayoral murder are popping up in Lake Eden. Was it a beleaguered colleague? A political rival? A jealous wife? Or a scorned mistress?
As orders pile up at The Cookie Jar–and children line up for Easter egg hunts–Hannah must spring into investigation mode and identify the real killer…before another murder happens.
Crimson Phoenix by John Gilstrap (February 23). Victoria Emerson is a congressional member of the U. S. House of Representatives for the state of West Virginia. Her aspirations have always been to help her community and to avoid the ambitious power plays of her peers in Washington D. C. Then Major Joseph McCrea appears on her doorstep and uses the code phrase Crimson Phoenix, meaning this is not a drill. The United States is on the verge of nuclear war. Victoria must accompany McCrea to a secure bunker. She cannot bring her family.
A single mother, Victoria refuses to abandon her three teenage sons. Denied entry to the bunker, they nonetheless survive the nuclear onslaught that devastates the country. The land is nearly uninhabitable. Electronics have been rendered useless. Food is scarce. Millions of scared and ailing people await aid from a government that is unable to regroup, much less organize a rescue from the chaos.
Victoria devotes herself to reestablishing order—only to encounter the harsh realities required of a leader dealing with desperate people.
Bobby March Will Live Forever by Alan Parks (February 25). One of our all-time favorites.
July 1973. The Glasgow drugs trade is booming and Bobby March, the city’s own rock-star hero, has just ODed in a central hotel.
Alice Kelly is twelve years old, lonely. And missing. Meanwhile the niece of McCoy’s boss has fallen in with a bad crowd. When she goes AWOL, McCoy is asked―off the books―to find her. McCoy has a hunch. But does he have enough time?