I read a lot. All the time, really. A few years ago I finally learned to allow myself to stop reading books that I wasn’t enjoying and move on to another title. The end of the year is an arbitrary marker but it’s as good a time as any to look back and review the pages I’ve read. Here are eight books I enjoyed reading this year.

An Unexplained Death by Mikita Brottman

The strange case has since been featured on the newest season of Unsolved Mysteries. What makes the book more than a case file is Brottman’s personal telling of the tale as a resident at the landmark.

from the publisher: Mikita Brottman spent ten years sifting through the details of the missing man’s life and disappearance, and his purported suicide by jumping from the roof of her own apartment building, the Belvedere. As Brottman delves into the murky circumstances surrounding Rey Rivera’s death–which begins to look more and more like a murder–she contemplates the nature of and motives behind suicide, and uncovers a haunting pattern of guests at the Belvedere, when it was still a historic hotel, taking their own lives on the premises.

I own a copy of this book.

American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson

With Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle prefigured some forensic techniques that wouldn’t be used for decades. Conan Doyle, a doctor himself and a student of leading medical diagnostician Joseph Bell, drew on his scientific knowledge to imagine ways criminals could be traced and caught. E. O. Heinrich did it in real life. He pioneered a nonexistent field of criminology through innovation, imagination and dogged methodologies.

My review.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow is a sort of sequel to Watchmaker, following the further adventures of Thaniel and Mori. Thaniel is now a diplomat (rather than an office grunt in the embassy offices). Mori has been off the grid for months, leaving Thaniel to take care of their ward, Six. Just as Thaniel is assigned to a mission in Tokyo, Mori returns and the three embark on the long journey to Asia. Oh, and most importantly, Katsu is back.

My review.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Told from the perspective of an unknown (until later) narrator, it opens with strange and unintelligible descriptions of archways, empty chambers, marble statues, and unending stairways — clearly a sensible map to the narrator. Even knowing (and trusting) the author, I admit I found these early pages difficult to follow. I finally gave up trying to draw a map in my own head and simply let the narrator lead me and I recommend every reader do the same.

Slowly, clues to the narrator’s labyrinthian world take form. Scraps of notes. Glimpses of dark figures. Visits from “The Other.” All the while, the narrator explores his endless home. He catches fish in nets from the ocean that fills the lower chambers everyday. He tries to trace the paths of the shadowy figure.

My review.

A Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee

I’ve very much enjoyed the Wyndham series and this one as my favorite installment so far.

from the publisher: 1922, India. Leaving Calcutta, Captain Sam Wyndham heads for the hills of Assam, to the ashram of a sainted monk where he hopes to conquer his opium addiction. But when he arrives, he sees a ghost from his life in London—a man thought to be long dead, a man Wyndham hoped he would never see again. Wyndham knows he must call his friend and colleague Sergeant Banerjee for help.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

The Vapors by David Hill

The waters of Hot Springs were revered for their healing properties dating back to Native American legend. Even Joliet took a dip during his explorations for France in the early 1600s. After America made the Louisiana Purchase, and Arkansas became a territory, U.S. Congress declared the springs to be a federally protected area in 1832. It remains part of the National Park Service today.

The idea that a gambling club offer ways to attract a wholesome clientele started in a small town in Arkansas.

My review.

Stoneground Ghost Tales by E.G. Swain

I stumbled upon this collection while browsing Project Gutenberg, one of the best places to find free classic books, manuals and more. You can search by author, subject, or just choose random. So much to discover.

from the publisher: E.G. Swain was Vicar of Stanground in Britain’s East Anglia, and a friend of M.R. James. In 1912 he published a collection of stories featuring the Revd Mr Batchel, a mild-mannered clergyman who is constantly running across supernatural happenings in his parish. These charming ghost stories, written by Swain as a tribute to his friend Monty James, have been favourites of ghost story fans for many years.

Download for free.

The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi

This was a really fun collection of stories, all tied together by an overarching narrative thread.

from the publisher: There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

A Nervous Man Shouldn’t Be Here in the First Place by Amy Paige Condon

Condon’s presentation of this little-known character is approachable, despite the deep dive she did into his complicated life. Details unfold naturally while the reader is engrossed in the amazing adventures of his short life. His rumpled seersucker suit-wearing, gently grumpy, overtired yet unrelenting self is made alive on these pages.

Read my review.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

British television producer, personality, and comic can add literary humorist to his resume. His debut novel The Thursday Murder Club is a polite, heartfelt version of a crime story involving a retirement home and a handful of murders. At times laugh-out-loud funny, it’s a cracking good yarn with memorable characters.

Read my full review.


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