Mysterious moms in crime fiction

Vannessa Cronin on May 07, 2020

Mysterious Moms

Sunday is Mother's Day in the U.S. and so our thoughts turn to our moms: how much they do for us, how much they love us, how far they'd go to keep us safe. Not me, though. Mother's Day in Ireland falls in March so I got all the hearts and flowers stuff out of my system weeks ago. Now I'm now ready to read about moms whose devotion to their offspring may lean toward the obsessive, moms who are not afraid to get their hands dirty to solve murders, even a literary novel about a mom who may have murdered her own daughters. The relationship between a mother and her child is complicated and fascinating, and so are these ten novels.

Blanche Cleans Up by Barbara Neely

Blanche is a working woman: she cleans upscale homes in Boston all while raising her teenage niece and nephew as her own. But when she covers for a cook in a politician’s Roxbury home, she gets a ringside seat to a scandal involving sex and murder, and it is up to her to untangle it. That she does it while offering her views on the spectacle from an African American perspective is icing on the cake because she is smart and laugh out loud funny.

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The May Mothers are a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. But one hot July night they decide to take a break from mommyhood with a fun night at a local bar. When six-week-old Midas goes missing that night, the carefree group is tested, and marriages and friendships may end up being destroyed. Read it before it comes to the big screen, starring Scandal’s Kerry Washington.

Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks

What would you do if you let your best friend, a mom of three, look after your child only for your daughter to go missing while in your friend’s care? For Harriet, the answer is to never speak to Charlotte again. However, as the police grill the women and try to figure out what happened to Harriet’s little girl, dark secrets begin to spill out and Harriet realizes that trusting Charlotte again may be the only way to find her daughter.

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

With her husband Wade’s memory failing, Ann is motivated to try to get to the bottom of what happened to Wade’s first wife, Jenny, now in prison, and what became of their daughters. Literary and lyrical, Idaho is far from a traditional mystery, and yet murder, and the hard-to-explain reasons why people do brutal things to those they love, makes it a page-turner.

Stolen Things by R. H. Herron

Laurie Ahmadi, a 911 police dispatcher in her quiet Northern California town, receives the worst call of her twenty-year career when her daughter Jojo calls to report she’s been raped. And she’s calling from the home of Kevin Leeds, a pro football player. When race, social media, and stigmas around sexual assault mean that Jojo may not get the justice she deserves, it will be up to her mom to take on the fight and right the wrong.

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And Milly, realizing her only chance of a having a normal life rested on her willingness to turn her mother in to the police, is now settling in to her new life. She has a new identity, an affluent foster family, and goes to an exclusive private school. But when she’s bullied by another kid, she will have to decide whether she wants to deal with it as others do. Or use her mother’s playbook. Just how far does the apple fall from the tree?

Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

Josephine Hurst has her family under tight control. Or she thinks she has, right up until her eldest daughter Rose runs off with a boyfriend Josephine didn’t know existed. As Josephine’s grip on the remaining family tightens, and the family members start to buckle under the pressure, a violent accident brings child protective services to the front door, and that threatens to blow the lid off secrets about the Hurst family, secrets Josephine has been trying very hard to control.

A Mother's Lie by Sarah Zettel

Beth Fraser has overcome a tough childhood, and finally she’s built the life she’s dreamed of, with a successful career in the tech industry and a good relationship with her fifteen-year-old daughter, Dana. But when a woman Dana meets on the street claims to be her grandmother, Beth realizes her old life has resurfaced and put Dana in grave danger. Performing one more con job for Beth’s parents may be the only way to set this mom and daughter free.

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Rose Gold Watts spent most of her life either in bed at home or in hospital, being treated for a parade of illnesses and allergies. And no matter how many tests and surgeries Rose had, she never seemed to get better. Until she turned her mother Patty in for child abuse and saw her sentenced to a prison term. Now Patty’s prison term is up, and she has nowhere else to go but Rose’s house. Nothing could go wrong, right?

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Divorced, broke, and on her way to Boston for an oncology appointment she suspects will involve bad news about her breast cancer, Rachel is terrified when she gets a call from a desperate woman who says she’s just kidnapped Rachel’s daughter from a bus stop. The woman’s child was kidnapped too, and the only way to get either of them back is for Rachel to kidnap another child and join The Chain. But whoever is behind the chain has underestimated what this mother will do to save her child.

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