The best mysteries and thrillers of January

Vannessa Cronin on January 14, 2021
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The best mysteries and thrillers of January

Murder in a subterranean detective agency in London, the largest manhunt in England's history—hunting for a legendary mystery writer, a Southern Gothic re-telling of Jane Eyre, a 50-year-old cold case in a New Mexico ghost town, a missing girl in Mattapan, and more. These were the January thrillers that kept us up past our bedtime.

Learn about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.


Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder by T.A. Willberg

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder reads like Harry Potter for adults—set in 1950s London—with dashes of The Kingsmen and even a sprinkle of steampunk. Below an unassuming bookshop lies a secret, subterranean detective agency, stunned by a murder in its ranks. Atmospheric world-building, a satisfying locked room mystery, and brave detecting apprentice Marion Lane make this a delightful page-turner.


The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Part of the fun of The Wife Upstairs is seeing how closely Hawkins sticks to the plot of Jane Eyre, part is how inventively and audaciously she strays from it. And going from English Gothic to Southern Gothic is just the beginning. For instance, Jane is a former foster kid turned light-fingered dog walker, while Eddie Rochester is the grieving widower of a Goop-like lifestyle queen. Unpredictable twists, smart spins on canon, and even a hat tip to Rebecca, make this a fun read.


The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Readers will hone their own detective skills as they race through Marie Benedict’s exhilarating novelization of Agatha Christie’s true-life disappearance in 1926 on the cusp of her leap to mystery-writing greatness. Whether you’re a Christie enthusiast or a historical fiction lover, every page is a revelation, and Benedict builds this tale of a marriage on the rocks to a flawless finale. —Adrian Liang


Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

Frankie Elkin is a tormented woman who has left her former life behind and now spends her time trying to locate missing girls. Her quest to help find girls—mostly minority girls whose disappearances have become cold cases languishing in police evidence rooms—brings her to Mattapan, a rough part of Boston, to search for a Haitian girl, Angelique Badeau. With a stunning sense of place, a complex mystery, and a well-rounded cast of supporting characters, Before She Disappeared is the definition of a page-turner.


The Scorpion's Tail by Douglas Preston

When a mummified corpse—concealing a 16th century Spanish gold cross—is discovered in the basement of a building in an abandoned New Mexico mining town, what started out as a rote case spins into something decidedly more exciting—and deadly—for FBI Agent Corrie Swanson. Bringing in archaeologist Nora Kelly to excavate the body, the scene is set for a fascinating cold case, a dangerous contemporary investigation, and all the archaeology, forensic anthropology, and American history readers can handle.


Sleep Well, My Lady by Kwei Quartey

The law says fashion icon Lady Araba's driver murdered her, but Lady Araba's Aunt Dele suspects it was her ex-boyfriend—drunken womanizer and talk show host, Augustus Seeza. A year after the death, Dele approaches Ghanaian PI Emma Djan's agency to get somebody to look into that theory. Emma will have to go undercover to solve the murder, an undercover mission that will prove triggering. Quartey doesn't shortcut the sleuthing necessary to solve the case, and taking the long way round allows for vivid snapshots of Ghanaian politics and culture. Sleep Well, My Lady is an enthralling sophomore entry in this excellent series.


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