The Shadows by Alex North
Growing up, Charlie Crabtree was always on the outside looking in, but had a mean streak, a very dark side, so it was easy to believe he was capable of committing murder; Paul Adams remembers Charlie Crabtree, who has not been seen in twenty-five years, and the murders and hasn’t returned to his hometown in twenty-five years. Now he has returned to see his mother who has dementia and dying. His mother insists there is something in her house, Paul is certain someone is following him, and Detective Amanda Beck is investigating a copycat murder in a nearby town and looking into what happened twenty-five years ago and what Paul Adams knows. The woods surrounding Featherbank, known locally as The Shadows holds many secrets, including a reclusive man. As the past comes back to haunt Paul Adams, old nightmares resurface, secrets threaten to be revealed, with the most shocking secret no one will see coming saved for the end.
Survival Instincts by Jen Waite
Single mother and therapist Anne decides to take her 12-year-old daughter Thea, and her bakery owner mother Rose on a girls weekend in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. While on a hike, the trio is marched at gunpoint to a cabin where they are held hostage. Anne realizes this hostage taking may have something to do with her past and former husband Ethan but can’t quite figure out what. Through flashbacks, the truth begins to emerge, and the three women gain strength from each other to fight the terror that is closer to them than they realize.
Sprinkling of Murder by Daryl Woods Gerber
Courtney Kelly’s fairy garden shop, located in a charming courtyard in Carmel-by-the-Sea, is the stuff dreams are made of. After a bad run in with their landlord, and an argument with a councilwoman, the owner of a pet spa, Mick Watkins, is found dead in Courtney’s shop. Courtney is in the police’s sights, but slowly ugly truths about Mick come out and there are no shortage of suspects in his murder. Courtney, who became enchanted by fairies by the age of ten, has a special fairy friend who needs Courtney’s help as much as Courtney needs hers. Well-plotted with a great community, the delightful setting lightens up the business of murder.
His & Hers by Alice Feeney
There are three sides to every story: his, hers, and the truth. A young woman is murdered in Blackdown, Surrrey and BBC correspondent Anna Andrews is on the scene, in spite of the fact she doesn’t wish to return to her hometown to cover the murder, especially since her soon to be ex-husband Jack Harper is leading the investigation, and especially when she recognizes the murder victim as a mean girl from school…Rachel Hopkins. Of course, that’s not where Jack recognizes her from having been with her the night before, any of these revelations would put them both under the spotlight, so they try to lay low, though Jack’s second Det. Sgt. Priya Patel is quick and astute and always looking. A second body, found by Anna with a connection to Anna does not bode well for her; the plot continues to tease and twist revealing only what is necessary until the final, shocking conclusion.
Blacktop Wasteland S.A. Cosby
Beauregard “Bug” Montage is a former wheelman now an auto shop owner with a wife and two children who is trying to stay on the straight and narrow. But live in 2012 Virginia is not easy: his shop is not doing well, payments to the nursing home where his mother lives have fallen so far behind she is in danger of losing her room, and his oldest daughter would like to go to college if there is money. When he is offered the chance to drive for a jewelry heist that could prove very lucrative, he decides one more can’t hurt and might be what he needs to get back on track. Things go very wrong, however, and end up putting not only Bug but his entire family at risk. This is an action packed thriller to be sure, but the narrative and prose is graceful, and the description of rural Virginia pointed and detailed, and a main character that, while he makes bad choices, is full or heart and love for his family.
Key Lime Crime by Lucy Burdette
Food critic for Key Zest magazine Hayley Snow is trying to enjoy the week between Christmas and New Year’s with her new husband, detective Nathan Bransford, but Key West is hopping this time of year and both have full schedules. Hayley is covering a key lime pie cook-off for the magazine and Nathan has just announced his mother will be making an unannounced visit to meet her son’s bride. At the opening ceremonies of the competition, one of the contestants, Claudette Parker, is disqualified and throws a pie in the judge’s face. The next day when Hayley and her houseboat neighbor Miss Gloria take Nathan’s mother, Helen, on the Conch Train Christmas tour, they find Claudette’s body in a display, dressed as Santa. Now Nathan not only has to keep his new wife from investigating the murder, but her mother as well, who has skills that surprise even her son. A charming setting, vivid characters, a dependable mystery, and key lime recipes at the end make this series a sure bet for all foodies.
The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs
Natalie Harper is disappointed when her mother Blythe doesn’t arrive at the event honoring Natalie and her work with the wine producer she works for; in the ladies’ room, Natalie overhears some less than complementary things about herself from subordinates, but her word is completely shattered when she learns her boyfriend was flying her mother from San Francisco as a surprise and the private plane he was piloting crashed, killing both of them. Natalie goes to San Francisco, presumably to close the bookstore her mother owned, and to come up with a plan for her aging grandfather who lives in an apartment in the building where the store is. To Natalie’s surprise, her grandfather owns both the building and the business, and she can sell neither. The store is not doing well at all, but remembering the unpleasantries she heard at her fete, she decides to stay in San Francisco and make some repairs to the shop. As local handyman Peach begins renovations, the building begins to give up its secrets, secrets that may just be the boost Natalie needs to change her life. Delightful and well-written, Susan Wiggs is always a winner.
South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Webber
Growing in Buttonwood, Alabama was not easy for Blue Bishop. Her family had a bad reputation, her brothers died in a botched bank robbery, and she is the last one left. A children’s book illustrator, Blue wanders the woods looking for natural dies, and always stops at the Buttonwood tree that reveals fates by dropping buttons for people. On one walk Blue, who longs more than anything to be a mother, finds a newborn with a button tucked inside that instructs the baby be given to Blue. She names the baby Flora and sets out to gain temporary custody, hoping to be able to adopt the baby. Sara Grace left Buttonwood, but returned with her husband, and now needs to decide what to do: she is unhappy with her marriage, but her business of buying and renovating houses is thriving. Soon her path and Blue’s will cross and they will learn their stories are interwoven in unimaginable ways, ways that will change not only their presents and futures, but how their pasts are seen as well. Magical realism is at its best in Webber’s capable hands.
Playing Nice by J.P. Delaney
Stay at home dad Pete and his partner Maddie’s lives are turned upside and torn apart when Miles Lambert appears on their doorstep and announces Pete and Maddie’s son Theo is really Miles and wife Lucy’s son and the toddler they have been raising is Pete and Maddie’s. At first, the families agree to leave things as is, though Miles is planning on suing the hospital where he feels the switch was made, but as the two families begin to integrate, it is clear that Miles has more on his mind than a simple lawsuit. The families’ pain is palpable, the tension and suspense high, in another strong domestic thriller from one of the best plotters today.