Shop Thoughts: It’s Mystery Season


Last week four newly published mysteries landed on the Indie Bestseller list (generated each week by the American Booksellers Association from data supplied by its 1,200+ indie bookstore members): How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix, The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson, and A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham.  

Why so many mysteries all of a sudden?  Maybe it’s just that time of year.  Who doesn’t want to cozy up with a good whodunit when the days are coldest?

But certain categories of books also get assigned certain months for publication for various reasons.  For example, self-help books come out in early January for New Year, New You displays and most poetry gets published in April (during National Poetry Month).  A lot of mysteries get published in October, due to the proximity of Halloween, but there are just too many mysteries for all of them to come out in a 31-day period.  Enter the winter months, the perfect time for a cozy—or even not-so-cozy—whodunit. 

January and February used to be thought of as quiet times for books.  But with over four million new titles hitting the market (the number of new books published, including self and commercially published books, in 2019, according to Statista, an online platform for market data), there no longer can be a quiet time for books.  Case in point: Prince Harry’s Spare, which published on January 10, has broken sales records, moving 1.6 million copies in its first week in the United States alone.

I recently finished reading The Writing Retreat (publishing February 21) by Julia Bartz, which features a snowy cover and the promise of a story about a group of aspiring writers at an exclusive and remote writing retreat where things go terribly wrong.  It’s a debut novel by a practicing therapist that nails the power dynamics in relationships, including friends and mentors.  It’s just the kind of winter read I was looking for.  

Other new mysteries this month to keep your eye on:

Blaze Me a Sun by Christoffer Carlsson: The American debut by a rising star in Swedish crime writing, Blaze Me a Sun is for Scandinavian noir fans and then some.  An unsolved serial killer case haunts a police officer into retirement.  Decades later the case resurfaces when a novelist befriends the officer and together, they start to unravel the threads.

The Exiles by Jane Harper: I will gladly follow Harper to Australia for any of her mysteries.  This time, on the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of a young mother, the family refuses to give up its search and federal investigator Aaron Falk, while on vacation in wine country, gets drawn into the circle of friends and their long-buried secrets.

City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita: Imagine a town in Alaska where all 205 residents live in the same high-rise building. Welcome to Point Mettier! (Based on the real-life Whittier, Alaska.) And guess what, someone has been murdered.  When a visiting detective gets snowed in, she sets out to solve the case before the murderer strikes again.

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett: If you love a good puzzle, this one’s for you.  Just released from prison, Steven Smith investigates a mystery that’s long haunted him, the disappearance of one of his teachers.  He believes it has to do with a code from a children’s book by Edith Twyford, but does he have the key to decipher it?

Better the Blood by Michael Bennett: Maori detective Hana Westerman discovers that two recent murders are connected to a crime 160 years in the past during the brutal British colonization of New Zealand.

writing retreat, grady hendrix, hana westerman, hannah harlow, prince, mystery fiction, aaron falk, statista, jane harper, stacy willingham, julia bartz, janice hallett, novelist