Jamie Orsini

In 1923, Saffron Everleigh is the only female research assistant at University College London. She hopes to make a name for herself in botany and gain the respect of her male colleagues, many of whom question whether she deserves to be there. While attending a department party meant to celebrate an upcoming university-funded expedition to South America, Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives, is poisoned. When Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor and boss, is accused of the crime, she begins her own investigation to clear his name—and figure out which member of their group tried to commit murder.

Kate Khavari brings 1920s London to life in A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons, focusing on the era’s less commonly explored academic and scientific spheres and taking full advantage of the lush greenhouses and gardens where Saffron and her colleagues conduct their research. Khavari also notes how the trauma of World War I still affects several of the characters, particularly Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher who joins Saffron in her quest. Alexander’s experiences with what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder feel authentic and contribute to this mystery’s realistic depiction of the ’20s.

Intelligent, witty and brave, Saffron makes for a delightful sleuth and protagonist. While trying to establish herself in a male-dominated profession, she must also navigate sexual harassment and discrimination. It’s a difficult position, but Saffron rises to the challenge.

Khavari has crafted a fast-paced, interesting mystery with two extremely likable central characters, and readers will be eager to follow Saffron and Alexander’s future escapades.

With its intriguing 1920s academia setting and two likable central characters, A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons is a promising start to a new historical mystery series.

Readers are treated to two expertly crafted mysteries in Australian author Sulari Gentill’s The Woman in the Library.

Four strangers are sharing a table at the Boston Public Library when they hear a woman’s terrified scream. Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid, Cain McLeod, Marigold Anastas and Whit Metters form a quick friendship while they wait for security guards to figure out what happened. When a woman’s body is later found in the library, the new friends realize they didn’t just hear a scream: They may have overheard a murder. Freddie, Cain, Marigold and Whit set out to discover what happened that afternoon, but they soon realize that their meeting wasn’t random—because one of them is the murderer.

But there’s yet another twist! The characters of Freddie, Cain, Marigold and Whit are just that: characters in a novel being written by an Australian woman named Hannah. She’s corresponding with an American writer named Leo, emailing him the chapters of her mystery novel as she completes them. Leo’s detailed responses follow each chapter, and readers soon realize he is more than an appreciative fan. Leo may be just as dangerous as one of the characters in Hannah’s story.

The author of more than a dozen mysteries, Gentill has created a smart, engaging novel that blurs genre lines. The mystery set within the library is a fresh take on the locked-room mystery, and Leo’s emails to Hannah create an increasingly ominous epistolary thriller, despite the distance between the characters. It’s an inventive and unique approach, elevated by Gentill’s masterful plotting, that will delight suspense fans looking for something bold and new.

Readers are treated to an inventive and expertly crafted mystery-within-a-mystery in Sulari Gentill's The Woman in the Library.

Alicia Bessette’s first Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery, Smile Beach Murder, brings readers to Cattail Island in North Carolina, where the sun shines and murder is in the air.

After losing her job, former reporter Callie Padget begrudgingly moves back to Cattail. Callie has a complicated relationship with the coastal community: While she loves the people and history of the island, her mother died after falling from the town’s famed lighthouse when Callie was just 12 years old. Everywhere she goes, she’s reminded of her mother and the life they might have built together.

Callie gets a job at the local bookstore, where she runs into Eva Meeks, the older sister of one of her school friends. Eva’s searching for books to help her with a treasure hunt and invites Callie to join in the fun. But the next day, Eva’s body is discovered at the base of the lighthouse. While local police believe she killed herself, Callie doesn’t, and she sets off to uncover a murderer on Cattail Island.

Bessette captures the charm of the Outer Banks with her vivid descriptions of laid-back island life. It’s easy to root for Callie, who’s resourceful and brave even when she finds herself staring down confessed killers and deadly sharks. And readers who have lost a loved one will relate to her journey to process the loss of her mother. Callie is still surprised by the depth of her grief, despite the time that’s passed, and her emotional development throughout the novel is made all the sweeter as she slowly embraces Cattail Island and all it has to offer. Readers will finish Smile Beach Murder cheering for Callie and eager for many more cases to come.

Alicia Bessette’s first Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery, Smile Beach Murder, captures the charm of island life even as it offers a moving perspective on grief.

Under Lock & Skeleton Key, the enchanting first book in Gigi Pandian’s Secret Staircase mystery series, flawlessly balances magic, misdirection and murder.

Tempest Raj is a gifted stage magician who’s forced to move home to Hidden Creek, California, after a performance in Las Vegas goes horribly wrong. Tempest is convinced her stage double, Cassidy, sabotaged her—but with no way to prove it, the down-on-her-luck magician must return to her family home, Fiddler’s Folly.

Fiddler’s Folly is a showcase for Tempest’s father’s own brand of magic. Darius Raj’s company, Secret Staircase Construction, specializes in adding whimsical details like sliding bookcases, hidden staircases and secret rooms to homes. When Tempest meets him at his latest job site, a body is discovered inside a wall that’s supposedly been sealed for more than a century. To make things even worse, the victim is Cassidy. Was Cassidy mistaken for Tempest and killed in her place? Is someone trying to frame Tempest? Could the death somehow be connected to the ominous family curse that the eldest Raj of each generation will be killed, supposedly by magic? Tempest sets out to bring Cassidy’s killer to justice and figure out if the curse is real—and if she’s its next target.

Hidden Creek is a truly delightful setting for a cozy mystery series. Not only does Fiddler’s Folly abound with hidden rooms and intricate locks, but the property also includes the dreamy treehouse where Tempest’s grandparents live. And then there’s the Locked Room Library, a mystery lover’s dream destination that readers will fervently wish truly existed. The world’s most famous crime novels line its shelves, and the library also sports a train car meeting room, skeleton keys and even a suit of armor. Pandian recently wrote an Agatha Award-nominated short story about the Locked Room Library, and her fans will be happy to recognize beloved characters from her other works, like Sanjay Rai, the Hindi Houdini, in Under Lock & Skeleton Key.

The mystery is engaging and full of misdirection (sometimes literally, in the form of sleight-of-hand tricks), and undergirding it all is Tempest’s anxiety around her family curse. But despite the high stakes, Under Lock & Skeleton Key is bursting with heart and hope.

The enchanting first book in Gigi Pandian’s Secret Staircase mystery series flawlessly balances magic, misdirection and murder.

Readers will instantly be taken with ex-cop-turned-caterer Jodie “Nosey” Parker in Murder on the Menu, a delightful start to a new cozy mystery series set in the Cornish countryside.

After serving nearly 20 years on the force with the London Metropolitan Police and undergoing a contentious divorce, Jodie is ready to start fresh. She and her 12-year-old daughter, Daisy, move to Penstowan, the small Cornish village where Jodie grew up. There, she opens her own catering company, and her first client is Tony, a longtime friend and onetime ex-boyfriend who hires her to cater his upcoming wedding. Several uninvited guests show up the night before the service, including Tony’s first wife, Mel, who promptly gets into a fistfight with Cheryl, the bride-to-be. When Cheryl disappears and bodies start to pile up, Jodie takes off her caterer’s coat and dives into the investigation in order to clear Tony’s name. 

Author Fiona Leitch’s excellent writing, witty dialogue and tongue-in-cheek humor elevate each scene, and the well-plotted mystery will keep readers guessing until the end. It’s easy to root for the entertaining Jodie, who’s still exceedingly capable as a detective despite having left the force. Detective Chief Inspector Nathan Withers, the lead investigator, is both annoyed and impressed with Jodie, and watching their budding chemistry is a delight. Leitch also ably explores the bittersweet, complicated nature of Jodie’s return to Penstowan: While she’s happy to live closer to her mother, a firecracker with a busy social life and wicked sense of humor, Jodie’s still coming to terms with living in the shadow of her late father, who dedicated his life to protecting the village as chief inspector.

Murder on the Menu will delight cozy mystery fans, especially those who want just a touch of melancholy amid all the crime-solving fun.

Fiona Leitch’s excellent writing, witty dialogue and tongue-in-cheek humor elevate each scene in this cozy mystery set in the Cornish countryside.

Mystery fans and dog lovers alike will enjoy Peggy Rothschild’s A Deadly Bone to Pick, the first in a new cozy mystery series featuring former police officer-turned-dog trainer Molly Madison.

Looking for a fresh start after the death of her husband, Molly makes a cross-country move to California. With her loyal golden retriever, Harlow, at her side, Molly hopes to heal and put down roots in the coastal town of Pier Point. On her first day there, she befriends a slobbery Saint Berdoodle (named Noodle) and volunteers to train him after learning that his owner can’t properly care for him. But when her new charge digs up a severed hand on the beach, Molly quickly goes from new kid on the block to murder suspect.

Readers will enjoy Rothschild’s fast-paced and well-plotted mystery, especially its small beach community setting. In Pier Point, the locals keep tabs on their neighbors, and everyone has a secret to hide. The town is filled with memorable characters, including Miguel Vasquez, the handsome detective investigating the murder, and Ava, Molly’s precocious 8-year-old neighbor who’s in need of tips for both training her dog and making friends her own age.

Molly’s lessons to other Pier Point residents and their dogs blend seamlessly into the central mystery, and animal lovers will appreciate seeing the reality of loving and living with pets depicted on the page. Rothschild shows that while it’s easy to love our dogs, they can also be a lot of work: There’s no sleeping in for Molly, not when Harlow needs to be let outside or fed. A Deadly Bone to Pick is a satisfying debut that will leave readers eager for more adventures with Molly and her canine companions.

Mystery fans and dog lovers alike will enjoy Peggy Rothschild’s A Deadly Bone to Pick, the first in a new cozy mystery series featuring former police officer-turned-dog trainer Molly Madison.

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!