Ah, July, a time of bright sunshine and warmer temperatures, a time when so many hit the road on vacation. But be careful, dear reader – crime never takes a vacation.
For those of us who can’t get away, here’s a list of thrillers and mysteries to help escape the everyday grind. Each book takes place in a different state and embodies the spirit of its setting so you can take a trip across the USA without leaving home.
I’ve asked eight writers of Sisters in Crime to tell us a bit about their books. Enjoy!
Hearts of the Missing
by Carol Potenza
The investigation of a missing tribe member’s suicide leads Pueblo Police Sergeant Nicky Matthews to uncover murders with a vengeful twist that strike at the very heart of the tribal traditions and culture of the people she is sworn to protect.
The book is set in the southwestern US and vividly evokes the beauty of the New Mexico landscape. The protagonist is looking for a place to belong: she loves the culture she protects as a police officer, but is an outsider and must deal with the fact that she can never truly be part of the tribe. The crimes involve the genes people inherit and the way society uses them to divide, which can engender great conversation about the meaning of identity and diversity. – Carol Potenza
by Jess Montgomery
Set in 1920s Ohio against a backdrop of coal mining, prohibition, and women’s rights, The Widows is about two women whose lives collide when the man they both love is murdered. Inspired by the true stories of two historical figures, The Widows is set in Appalachia in southwest Ohio. Besides exploring women’s rights and workers’ rights, the novel explores the culture and influence of Appalachia and Appalachian heritage – a unique spot between “sea and shining sea.” – Jess Montgomery
Editor’s note: Starred review in Library Journal
by Keenan Powell
In Anchorage, Alaska, Yup’ik Eskimo chief financial officer and single mother, Esther Fancyboy, walks out of a party and into a blizzard. She is never seen again, leaving behind a seven-year-old son, Evan. The local cops say she’ll come home when she’s done partying, but family friend Maeve Malloy doesn’t think it’s that simple.
The book touches on the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and the struggles of the Alaska Native indigenous cultures adapting to 21st century America. – Keenan Powell
Speaking of Summer
by Kalisha Buckhanon
On a cold December evening, Autumn Spencer’s twin sister Summer walks to the roof of their shared Harlem brownstone and is never seen again – the door to the roof is locked, and no footsteps are found. Faced with authorities indifferent to another missing woman, Autumn must pursue answers on her own, all while grieving her mother’s recent death. But the loss is too great, the mystery too inexplicable, and Autumn starts to unravel, all the while becoming obsessed with murdered women and the men who kill them.
This novel I intended to be a love letter to New York City’s historical Harlem neighborhood as much as a satisfying thriller. Speaking of Summer has been named a Best 2019 or Summer Book Pick for O Magazine, Essence, CrimeReads, TIME, Ms. Magazine, USA Today, Bustle, Buzzfeed, LitHub, BookBub, The National, The Brooklyn Rail, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, AALBC and The Grio. – Kalisha Buckhanon
Murder at the Blue Plate Café
Small towns are supposed to be idyllic and peaceful, but when Kate Chambers returns to her hometown of Wheeler, Texas, she soon learns it is not the comfortable place it was when she grew up. First there’s Gram’s sudden death, which leaves her suspicious, and then the death of her married sister’s lover. Kate runs Gram’s restaurant, the Blue Plate Café, but she must defend her sister against a murder charge, solve the murders to keep her business open, and figure out where the café’s profits are going. Themes of small-town Texas and tangled family relationships make this culinary mystery a great read. – Judy Alter
Ivy Get Your Gun
by Cindy Brown
There’s a new sheriff in town – and she can sing! When Gold Bug Gulch’s actor-gunslinger Mongo winds up shot for real, actress and part-time PI Ivy Meadows goes undercover as the ingenue in the town’s melodrama. Unfortunately, she’s distracted by a pack of marauding chihuahuas, a problematic love life, auditions for “Annie Get Your Gun,” and a personal mission: to show people the real Annie Oakley. What’s more, the no-good, yellow-bellied varmint who killed Mongo isn’t finished with the Gulch – or with Ivy. Will our heroine prove she CAN get a man with a gun – before the killer gets her?
Set in a ghost town turned Old Western theme town, Ivy Get Your Gun’s plot features cowboys (real and actors), gold mining, and old and new land-use feuds common to Arizona and the West. Its themes explore women’s roles (especially in the West) and how they’ve changed. – Cindy Brown
by James M. Jackson
Seamus McCree’s plans for a quiet, contemplative winter in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are thrown out the window when he discovers a naked woman on his porch during a blizzard. The mystery woman is suffering from hypothermia, frostbite, amnesia – and rope burns on her wrists and ankles. Snowbound at the cabin, without transportation or phone coverage, Seamus struggles to keep the woman alive and find a way to get an SOS message out. What he doesn’t know is that a domestic paramilitary organization is hunting an escaped female prisoner – and closing in on his isolated refuge. Packed within a Goodreads-rated 4.4-star thriller, Cabin Fever asks readers to explore the ethical issues of ends justifying means, personal responsibility, and explores family relationships all taking place in a part of the county most have never visited. – Jim Jackson
Death of a Jester
by Deb Richardson-Moore
The police and journalists in Grambling, Georgia, are laughing it up about the clown sightings reported in their city. But when a homeless boy disappears from Tent City, the laughter stops. Was the child abducted by someone dressed as a clown? Death of a Jester is the third of the Branigan Powers Mystery series, and it provides a Southern-soaked look at how murder impacts a small city – from the newsroom to the homeless encampment to the community theater. – Deb Richardson-Moore
Shari Randall is the Agatha Award-winning author of Curses, Boiled Again, first in the Lobster Shack Mystery series from St. Martin’s Press. She enjoys being the Library Liaison for Sisters in Crime because it combines her two of her favorite things: writing and libraries. You can find more about her at www.sharirandallauthor.com.