New paperback mysteries to keep you up late

Vannessa Cronin on October 25, 2020

New paperback mysteries to keep you up late

When I was a kid, I would get so into whatever book I was reading that I would stay up until the wee hours, furiously reading away. Exasperated, my mother would call to me, letting me know she saw the light under my door, and warning me that if I didn't go to sleep, I'd be tired for pre-school/primary school/secondary school/work/university/work the next day.

I promised myself that when I was an adult, I'd stay up reading as late as I liked, whenever I liked. Of course, the 6am starts—trying to dodge rush hour on the subway and get to work early—put paid to being a night reader. Now, with Covid, my sleep patterns are wonky, and I find myself awake at odd hours. Hello, night reading, my old friend.

Here are a few mysteries and thrillers, recently out in paperback, that are made to keep readers up late.

Crooked River by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Agent Pendergast is called away from vacation to head to the resort town of Sanibel Island, FL, where dozens of shoes, each one containing a severed foot, have been discovered floating in the Gulf of Mexico. An early pathology report throws up additional questions rather than providing any answers, and so Pendergast finds himself on a working vacation. I'll stay up late for the brilliant Pendergast any night of the week. An old-fashioned gentleman with a mind like a steel trap, watching him make sense of the baffling evidence—all of which leads to one of those ripped-from-the-headlines plots—is magic.

Trust No One by Debra Webb

As if working with an unreliable new partner weren't enough, Detective Kerri Devlin is having issues on the home front too, with both her ex-husband and her teenage daughter. But as she hunts for a missing woman, the evidence starts to take her to startling places, and she's no longer sure who the victim is, and who the suspect is. With a compressed time frame (the story takes place over ten days), and a great female detective driving the complex, twisty plot, Trust No One sucks the reader in on the first page and doesn't let up until the last.

Midwinter Murder: Fireside Tales from the Queen of Mystery by Agatha Christie

Why should I say anything about Christie when mystery authors put it so much better? Tana French says, "Reading a perfectly plotted Agatha Christie is like crunching into a perfect apple: that pure, crisp, absolute satisfaction.” Louise Penny, on the other hand, says, “Agatha Christie’s books are both wonderful crime novels and studies in contrast and duality, and I adore them still. Underestimate them at your peril.” And Donna Leon adds, “Any mystery writer who wants to learn how to plot should spend a few days reading Agatha Christie. She’ll show you everything you want to know.”

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Rachel receives a call from a frantic mother, telling her she's kidnapped Rachel's daughter. It's the only way to get her own son, also kidnapped, back. And now, the rules of The Chain dictate that Rachel must kidnap a child also, if she is ever to see her daughter again. A novel that starts out in top gear must slow down here and there, right? But no, McKinty keeps the pedal to the metal through the rest of the book, yet still makes space for keen character portraits: Rachel, the divorced cancer survivor who discovers fresh wells of courage when her daughter is in danger, and Kylie, her smart, resourceful teenage daughter, are recognizable and relatable, and readers will cheer them on with bated breath.

Bloody Genius by John Sandford

John Sandford reliably serves up top notch storytelling with original plotting in each of his novels, and Bloody Genius is no exception. Virgil Flowers, brilliant detective and endearing wiseass, is brought into a local state university when a famous scholar turns up murdered. As Flowers investigates, he finds that two departments, science and medicine, are in a heated battle with one another. Although both sides have adopted radical positions, Flowers realizes that a killer is using the feud for cover. And it will be up to him to spare further bloodshed by finding the killer, or as the publisher puts it, sorting "the murderer from the mere maniacs."

The Institute by Stephen King

The monsters in Stephen King's novels are all the more terrifying for being human. That's the case in The Institute, when Luke Ellis’s parents are murdered by intruders, and Luke is taken to The Institute, along with other kids possessed of special talents, like telekinesis and telepathy. Obedience is mandatory at The Institute, and defiance is brutally punished. Kids going toe to toe with evil when the adults have proven unequal to the task is always a good time, and no one builds layer upon layer of terror, menace, and suspense better than King.

Walk the Wire by David Baldacci

Amos Decker is an FBI consultant with a perfect memory, the legacy of a life-altering brain injury. While it leaves him with memories he'd much prefer to bury, a perfect memory makes a useful addition to the toolkit of a gifted detective. Particularly in London, ND, where a fracking boom has brought wave after wave of crime: sexual, political, property, and more. When a woman with a curious double life, and a connection to a local religious sect, is found murdered, Amos will have to bring all his skills to bear. A brilliant but tormented detective, topical issues (name another mystery centered on fracking!) and a panoply of colorful suspects will keep readers guessing—and entertained—to the last page.

Save Her Soul by Lisa Regan

When flooding dislodges a home from its foundations in the small town of Denton, and a body wrapped in a blue tarp floats to the surface, Detective Josie Quinn discovers she has a connection to the dead woman. Not only that, but the woman is wearing a jacket identical to one Josie's dead ex-husband, Ray, used to own. The ninth in a series, Save Her Soul doesn't quite work as a standalone, though Regan works hard to fill in the backstory. But Josie is a great character: smart and forthright, and the small town setting lends a satisfying "you-think-you-know-people" layer of suspense, so while Regan's fans will enjoy this, those new to the world of Josie Quinn would be well-advised to go back to the beginning of this excellent series.

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