Best mystery novels to read this winter

“Life has a way of coming full circle”
January 2, 2019
The Americans who fought and died for freedom and democracy
January 7, 2019

Best mystery novels to read this winter

The Current: A Novel by Tim Johnston, Algonquin Books, US $27.95, Pp 408, January 2019, ISBN 978-1616206772
Half of What You Hear: A Novel by Kristyn Kusek Lewis, Harper, US $16.99, Pp 350, December 2018, ISBN 978-0062673350
The Mansion: A Novel by Ezekiel Boone, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, US $24.00, Pp 320, December 2018, ISBN 978-1501165504

When Caroline is pulled out of the icy Black Root River in a small Minnesota town, she is already dead as she is pulled out of the slush-like water. There is another woman — Audrey — on the scene. She is frozen but alive. It does not seem to be just another accident. Caroline was driving Audrey to her parents’ home as Audrey’s father was ill. The two are roommates with a fractured friendship that has lasted since the college in spite of tension and misunderstanding. In the morning, Caroline had offered to drive Audrey all the way to her parents’ town. On the way to Audrey’s parents’ town, they face a violent encounter at a gas station that leaves Audrey wounded and Caroline dead. Audrey has to come to terms with the tragic incident. She is reminded that the violent encounter resembles a similar crime ten years ago when another woman was drowned in the same river in the same way. Her killers are still at large and possibly living in the same town. Unsatisfied with the official investigation, Audrey decides to investigate on her own. As she makes progress in her investigations, Audrey realizes that she is somehow linked to the 10-year old unsolved case by more than the river. The more she thinks and investigates, the more she is convinced of the links. She starts discovering the dangerous truth. The truth is that Audrey’s own life is in danger now. The Current is a haunting story which is woven with more than one layer around the main theme of who is behind the tragic events. Each layer uncovers a new deception. Johnston masterfully describes people, their grief, their guilt, and loneliness. He brings out both the brutal and loving sides of human nature. It is a real treat for those who love thrillers.

Tim Johnston is also the author of the New York Time’s bestselling novel Descent (2015), the story collection Irish Girl (2009), and the YA novel Never So Green (2002). The stories of Irish girl have won an O. Henry Prize, the New Letters Award for Writers, and the Gival Press Short Story Award, while the collection itself won the 2009 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. Tim holds degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He was the 2015 Iowa Author, and currently lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

*****

Bess Warner recently lost her lucrative White House job under a cloud of scandal and suspicions. As the money becomes tight, she decides to move out of expensive, crowded and noisy Washington and settle in Greyhill, Virginia. Greyhill is a sleepy but beautiful town — known for its old rich people living in expensive mansions but also for conservative ideas about life and people. Her husband was born and raised in Greyhill where his parents still live. Bess thinks she knows what to expect when she moves there with her husband, Cole, and their kids. Bess is happy because they were taking over Cole’s family inn-keeping business. She is particularly happy she and her family will be away from the crowded and noisy Washington. But, to her surprise, Bess discovers that Greyhill offers a whole new world and it is not what she expected before moving in. Far from being simple, life is pretty complex for a straightforward person. Bess faces biting questions from the gossipy local residents. When she receives a request from the Washington Post’s lifestyle supplement to write a piece about Susannah “Cricket” Lane — Greyhill’s most mysterious and notorious resident, she mistakenly thinks this is what she needed to settle securely in Greyhill. Susannah is a special sort of outsider who has recently returned to Greyhill from New York where she had lived for several decades. Her long absence from Greyhill has created suspicions about her but Susannah hardly cares. The way she behaves antagonizes many people. The question is whether Susannah is giving interviews to Bess sincerely or using her interview sessions with Bess to expose Greyhill’s dark secrets. As Bess learns more secrets about Greyhill from Susannah and about Susannah from the people, she realizes how difficult it can be to restart your life in an unknown place that runs on gossip. Half of What You Hear is an astute, exquisite account of a gossipy small town. Everything about this novel sounds true. It is a mesmerizing and entertaining light mystery novel.

Kristyn Kusek Lewis is the author of Save Me and How Lucky You Are. A former magazine editor at Glamour and Child, Kristyn has been writing for national publications for nearly twenty years. Her work has appeared in the New York TimesO, The Oprah MagazineGlamour; Self CosmopolitanMarie Claire; Parents; the New York Daily News; and many more. Kristyn is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she earned an MFA in creative writing. She lives in the Washington, DC, area with her family.

*****

In the early 2000s, as computer programmers Billy Stafford and Shawn Eagle graduated from college, they thought they should do something big in computer programming. They had been thinking about this for a long time but now was the time to do something practical. They decided to hole up in a cabin near the Eagle family’s long-abandoned mansion in a remote part of upstate New York. Their dream was to develop a cutting-edge artificial intelligence. They succeed in creating a revolutionary computer they called Eagle Logic — something that could make them rich. Then there was Shawn’s girlfriend, Emily Wiggins, who leaves him for Billy which created cracks in the group. As Billy leaves the group, Shawn decides to continue with his dream project — Eagle Logic — and uses it to build a multibillion-dollar company that eventually outshines Apple, Google, and Microsoft combined. As Shawn is enjoying fame and money, Billy is roiled in poverty and addiction, barely hanging on to Emily. Shawn decides to go back to his original dream of building a next-generation computer program — Nellie — that can control every function in a house. He chooses to set it up in the abandoned mansion they started working so many years ago. He soon realizes that something about Nellie is mal-functioning as there are several accidental deaths in the reconstructed mansion. Shawn has to destroy the evil bug in the source code before he can realize his dream. The only solution Shawn can think of is to bring Billy back in spite of their old and mutual hatred. Billy becomes suspicious when Shawn contacts him but accepts the job offer. Billy and Emily move into the mansion to debug Nellie’s developing psyche. It is a story of two computer geniuses – one has a god complex and the other deep-seated inferiority complex and nagging guilt over a hidden secret. The Mansion is packed with digital horror. As you read it, you feel as if you are missing a heartbeat every now and then. It is a brilliantly written thriller you will remember for a very long time to come. Boone is a gifted storyteller.

About the author

Ezekiel Boone is an internationally bestselling author of The HatchingSkitter, and Zero Day. He also writes under the name Alexi Zentner. Alexi Zentner’s books are pretty different from Ezekiel Boone’s. Ezekiel Boone lives in upstate New York with his wife and children.

Disclaimer: Most of the biographical notes in our reviews are provided by the publishers.

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