Long before I ever read romances, I was an avid mystery reader. My love of mysteries started as a child with Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, and continues to this day. The mystery community handed out the bulk of its awards for “best of 2013” in November of 2014. As usual, I was nearly completely out of step with the awards; I either hadn’t read the award winners (and nominees) or disliked most of the ones I had read. So I’m going to get a jump on the 2014 award year – by at least 10 months – and pick my favorite mysteries published in 2014.
The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley – Yes, once again the highlight of my mystery-reading year occurred in January with the latest in the Flavia de Luce mystery series featuring 11-year old Flavia, a would-be detective and serious chemist (with a particular love of poisons). Set in 1951 England, the series continues to delight me. I’ll admit I’m now counting down the weeks (and soon days) until the next book is released. This latest entry seems to wrap up one part of Flavia’s life, and I’m very curious to see where she ends up in the next book. I should note that I both read these in print and listen to them in audio, and cannot recommend highly enough the narration done by Jayne Entwistle; she’s absolutely delightful.
The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander – This is the ninth in the author’s Lady Emily mystery series set in Victorian England. As always, Lady Emily and her husband Colin are at the center of the story, featuring the mysterious murder of a woman who turns out to be an imposter heiress. I love Lady Emily and Colin’s relationship with each other, and with their host of friends. I’m also very curious to see what happens in the next book, as Lady Emily seems to be developing an interest in Egypt.
Moriarty Returns a Letter by Michael Robertson – This is the fourth in a series featuring two brothers whose law offices are located at 221B Baker Street. As part of the lease agreement, they had to agree to respond to letters to Sherlock Holmes, which leads them to many interesting cases. I discovered the series this past year and feel the latest is the best in the series.
The Question of the Missing Head by E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen – This is the first in a series featuring Samuel Hoenig, a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, who runs a business entitled Questions Answered. It’s a new business, and his latest “question” to solve is to discover who stole a head from a cryonics institute. All of the main characters – including Samuel’s mother – are interesting, and parts of the mystery surprised me. I can’t wait for the second in the series. As a note, E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen are the same person.
That Summer by Lauren Willig – This is a standalone from the author most known for her Pink Carnation series. There is a slight nod to the series in that one of the characters has a distant connection to a character from the series. But this definitely stands on its own. Like her Pink Carnation series, it features a modern story (2009) and an historical story (1849). While there is no murder involved in the story, there’s a definite mystery about a pre-Raphaelite painting. I liked both the historical and modern parts, but found myself particularly interested in the modern story. The historical part is decidedly darker than the historical parts of the Pink Carnation series, but intriguing, particularly with the links to the pre-Raphaelite artists.
Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James – This is the author’s third book. While each of the books are set in the same time period (this one in 1919) and feature ghosts, they are all standalones. For me this is the darkest in the series, but also a completely engrossing mystery. The heroine — Kitty Weekes – lies about her identity and experiences and gets a job in a remote nursing home for shell-shocked soldiers. In addition to a particularly frightening ghost, the soldiers in the home have many secrets.
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny – In the author’s latest Armand Gamache mystery, the now retired Gamache is living in Three Pines – that virtually hidden small village in Quebec. I wasn’t sure where the author would go after the last mystery, as it seemed to resolve a number of story arcs. But in this latest book, she takes us back to many of the earlier books in the series and resolves some long-standing mysteries. I have come to love this series and cannot wait for the next. But the series features so much character development, and has so many linked stories that it absolutely must be read from the beginning.
The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths – This is the sixth in the author’s series featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. Ruth is an unusual main character; she’s grumpy, overweight, a bit of a loner, and is now a single mother of a young daughter. I found this to be much more interesting than the previous entry in the series, with parallel mysteries of mothers accused of the murder of their children in Victorian and present-day England.
The Harlot’s Taleby Sam Thomas – This is the second mystery featuring midwife Bridget Hodgson. Set in York in 1645, the story mixes a rather grizzly series of murders with information about life in York during the civil war. An historian, the author does a wonderful job conveying the history of the period while holding my interest in both the characters and the mystery.
That’s it, my top nine mysteries of 2014. Did you read any great mysteries you would recommend in 2014?