2020 was a year to forget, but thanks to these twelve highly talented authors, we had wonderful novels that helped us escape the real life problems and suffering around us. Here are the Top Twelve Mystery Novels of 2020 in no particular order.
It’s hard to believe that Peter Lovesey has been writing for half a century and reading his latest you’ll feel he hasn’t lost a step. The Finisher is a timely mystery featuring Detective Peter Diamond on the trail of paroled criminal who he suspects might be back in business. Lovesey explores everything from police drones, sexual harassment, and how the past can never be erased in this thrilling top mystery novel.
The Dark Corners of the Night by Meg Gardiner (Blackstone Publishing)
Meg Gardiner has the power to craft haunting novels that stay with you after you’ve turned the last page. The Dark Corners of the Night is an atmospheric and chilling sojourn into the mind of deranged killer while striking a deft balance with an endearing protagonist, FBI behavioral analyst Caitlin Hendrix who is destined for the big screen.
P.I. Leonid McGill is cut from the cloth of Philip Marlowe and like him, he can’t resist the temptation to challenge the powerful and protect the weak. In this case, an elderly man who finds himself in the crosshairs of a chilling assassin. One can argue that Chandler nearly perfects the noir genre, but reading Mosley it’s easy to come up with the conclusion that he’s added layers that make him this generation’s noir master.
In Horowitz’s latest novel, he presents us with a Fabergé egg, a top mystery novel within a novel. A casual reader might find that disconcerting, but the voice, the plot, and the characters create a gripping read. We have an English hotelier and former editor investigating the disappearance of a women who seems to have been kidnaped in broad daylight and her attempts to solve this crime by reading a long book about murder that took place in the same area decades before. Horowitz combines the elements of the works of Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, Ruth Rendell, and Julian Symons craft novels that will satisfy the most discerning reader.
The reading world has been crying for another John Dickson Carr and Stuart Turton fits the bill. A plot weaver who combines a mishmash of genres and blends them into something that is nothing short of thrilling and spellbinding. His latest novel is set on board a ship, where Samuel Pipps is being transferred to South Africa to face trial for murder, in Turtonesque fashion, nothing goes as planned and all I can say is read the book!
An excellent story that one feels was written in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith about twin sisters, a huge inheritance and a deadly game of winner-take all. Unlike Highsmith, Carlyle lends more sympathy to her characters and crafts a believable narrative around why people end up in certain ways that are inexplicable to casual observers.
Jacobson has been at the top of his game for over twenty years and his latest novel featuring FBI profiler Karen Vail poses a daunting question, “how can a seasoned profiler track a killer down, when the killer leaves no clues?” Another riveting novel by this master of the thriller genre.
Burke has always been the poet of the crime novel genre, and A Private Cathedral is one of his powerful and gripping books ever written, combining elements of seedy noir with Romeo and Juliet, and the supernatural. While matching wits with cunning and ruthless criminals Detective Dave Robicheaux is equal to the task, fighting off an assassin with metaphysical powers. Burke has been the prophet of creating characters fighting for redemption, while never allowing their scarred souls to remove their humanity.
Jon Land stands as one of the most effective craftsmen of the mystery novel in the past 15 years. Strong from the Heart is his best novel to date and this from someone who eagerly anticipates all of his new releases. In Land’s latest release Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong takes on the drug trade and though this work is classified as fiction, you’re left after finishing the book with some chilling scenarios that feel very real and deal with the opioid epidemic that feels so forgotten. This book will have you looking into Land’s backlist which are just as compelling and page turning.
Catherine Ryan Howard’s books never feel overworked, to read of them you feel like you’re in a frenetic journey alongside her characters with very little inclination to see periods or commas. Her latest novel revolves around the chilling scenario of what might happen when a serial killer reads a book based on his crimes.
The actor Alec Guinness made a remark to the effect that Graham Greene had the talent in his novels to foresee a conflict a few years before the particular conflict received international attention. Reading Ryan’s books I’ve felt she’s the crime writing equivalent of Greene, prescient yet timely enough for us to understand and appreciate her work.
Whether we like it or not, Big Pharma plays a role in almost all of our lives and Ryan asks some daunting questions about their power in this riveting novel. Told from the multiple points of view of three women and add a dose of conspiracy, danger, and moral ambiguity and you have a page-turner that packs a huge punch.
We all remember the thrilling premise of Strangers on a Train, where a psychopath offers to trade murders and that way create an alibi for both people. Clark crafts a narrative which is just as thrilling and even more creative where two women trapped with mean-spirited husbands have a chance meeting at an airport and decide to trade places and start life anew. What was it about the best laid plans of mice and men?