From the Dirty South to Old Bombay; from a retired MP to an active FBI special agent; from a bounty hunter who's more lucky than good to a defense lawyer who'll need to be both lucky and good, we take a look at our favorite mysteries and thrillers of November.
Learn about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly
The Law of Innocence upended a perfectly lovely weekend away. I brought it along to have something to read before bed, but ended up feverishly turning pages until 3 a.m. on the very first night because I just couldn't stop. Do you know how hard it is to appreciate a facsimile of a Bavarian village when you're zombified from lack of sleep? What I love about The Law of Innocence is what I also love about Connelly's Bosch books: getting to see the "sausage making," be it the painstaking methods police detectives have for teasing out the details of a case or the way a lawyer sets about building a case while navigating courtroom politics and traditions. In this novel, the Lincoln Lawyer becomes the Lockup Lawyer when a dead body is found in the trunk of his car, and he's forced to mount his own defense from a cell in Los Angeles' Twin Towers Correctional Facility. In addition to getting a superb courtroom drama, readers spend all of the book inside Mickey Haller's head, which is like being in a drag-racing car that's been stripped down for weight: it may be missing some of the usual refinements but, boy, will it get you across the finish line faster.
The Dirty South by John Connolly
Some of my favorite thrillers are origin stories: those that look back at how a character came to be. And The Dirty South is such a look at Charlie Parker and how a case in Arkansas—involving brutally murdered Black girls—takes an investigator molten with rage at the murders of his wife and child and casts him as a man who has "learned to embrace the dead" and fights evil on their behalf.
Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood
When asked for her favorite reads of 2020, Tana French recommended Fortune Favors the Dead: "It’s got razor-sharp style, tons of flair, a snappy sense of humor, and all the most satisfying elements of a really good noir novel, plus plenty of original twists of its own." To which we would only add that it also has two fabulous female leads—Willowjean "Will" Parker, a circus runaway whose knife-throwing skills save Lillian Pentecost, a PI with MS—and brings together two of the smartest, wittiest investigators.
The Sentinel by Lee Child and Andrew Child
It's always iffy when a new author takes over a popular series. How can one author replicate another's skill at drawing a well-loved character? In the case of Jack Reacher, Andrew Child has a genetic advantage, as the younger brother of Lee Child. He's also a thriller writer in his own right. And he's clearly a fan of his brother's creation. There's no need to provide any plot details: Reacher does what he usually does in a small town, and it's standing room only at the local hospital for weeks afterwards. But the yearlong wait for another Reacher book paid off handsomely, and we can't wait for the next one.
Fortune and Glory by Janet Evanovich
Forget about wanting Stephanie Plum to grow as a person, and as a bounty hunter. Forget about making her choose between the hot men in her life: long-suffering cop Morelli or businessman/mercenary Ranger. In the 27th outing, Stephanie is at her plucky-but-inept best as she and Grandma Mazur (now Grandma Rosolli) compete with killers—and even a glamorous female insurance investigator—destroy cars, and hang out at the funeral parlor, all to locate the treasure left behind by Grandma's late husband. The Plum books are fast and funny and I still love them.
Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March
There are conceits every mystery reader knows and either embraces or avoids. The cynical, jaded investigator is one of those conceits. And every once in a while I need a palate cleanser, a break from it, and Murder in Old Bombay delivered in that regard. Captain Jim Agnihotri is a kind man with a love of Sherlock Holmes, and both traits come into play when he reads of two women who committed suicide in suspicious circumstances. He offers his services as an investigator to the grieving family. But make no mistake: Agnihotri has a keen mind to go with his kind heart. March really makes use of the turn-of-the-century Indian setting, and the result is a fascinating, satisfying mystery that should appeal to fans of Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
The Cipher by Isabella Maldonado
FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera is a great new female character and The Cipher kicks off a new series with a bang. Guerrera has long experience with evil: she barely escaped the clutches of a serial killer when she was 16. Now a viral video brings him back into her life, and it's not to catch up on how she's been doing all these years. Maldonado does a superb job of depicting a woman who's made a strength out of trauma, and an even better job at showing how a monster could use the internet to prey on the vulnerable. Maldonado spent 22 years in law enforcement and her experience shines through in The Cipher.
From the Dirty South to Old Bombay, and all the cops, knights errant, bounty hunters, special agents, and defense lawyers in between, November is a great month for mysteries and thrillers.