Brenda's Staff Picks

Brenda Jordan at Murder By The Book since 2009

After years of reading only True Crime, I slowly moved to mystery novels. Now, I primarily read British, Historical, Foreign and Espionage novels. From Peter James to Alan Bradley, Geraldine Brooks to Mark Pryor, Kate Morton to Amor Towles, Martin Walker to Daniel Silva, each author offers his/her unique ability to tell a story well. And, the well-written, well-told story is what I want!

Whether fast-paced, intense, poignant, charming— I know the story has “it” when I can’t get it out of my mind. What’s better than the anticipation of a new book by a favorite author, or the unexpected find of a great book by a new author? Nothing! That’s what it’s all about.

Brenda's 2021 Top Ten:

1. We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker
2. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
3. Left You Dead by Peter James
4. A Line To Kill by Anthony Horowitz
5. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
6. The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jonasson
7. The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
8. The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett
9. The Hostage by Clare Mackintosh
10. The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

Find of the Year:

The William Warwick series by Jeffrey Archer 

Check out Brenda's Recommendations Playlist on the MBTB YouTube channel.

Staff Pick Badge
We Begin at the End Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250759665
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Henry Holt and Co. - March 2nd, 2021

Once in a blue moon a book comes along that I can’t get out of my mind…such is Chris Whitaker’s We Begin At The End.  

The characters are unforgettable!  Thirteen-year-old Duchess, is parent to both her five-year-old brother, Robin and her mother, Star.  Walk, the local Chief of Police and Star's childhood friend, watches over the dysfunctional family, coming to their rescue frequently.   Walk’s best friend Vincent is being released from prison after serving a 30-year sentence and coming back home to Cape Haven.  But Vincent’s homecoming is anything but welcoming, and when a murder occurs, it will forever change the trajectory of Duchess, Robin and Walk’s lives.

We Begin At The End will haunt your thoughts well after you've read it.  I can’t imagine that it won’t win every 2021 award available, and is certain to be my Top Book of the Year.  My highest recommendation! - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
The Lincoln Highway: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735222359
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking - October 5th, 2021

From the author of A Gentleman In Moscow comes The Lincoln Highway.  And, it’s incredible!

Following a journey from Nebraska to New York City, this novel spans 10 days and features three eighteen-year-olds (Emmett, Duchess and Woolly) and Billy, the exceptionally bright eight-year-old brother of Emmett. 

Set in 1954, Emmett has just been released from a juvenile work farm and has been driven back home to Nebraska by the warden.  His plan - to collect Billy and head to California for a new start.  But as soon as the warden leaves, Emmett realizes two of his work farm mates have hitched a ride in the warden’s trunk, and here they are with their own ideas for Emmett’s future.  Their plan - New York City.  Billy’s plan - via the Lincoln Highway.  Once they get Duchess and Woolly to NYC, Emmett and Billy will head to California.  

Starting with Day 10, each day is told by multiple voices - each of the boys -  and a few others thrown in.  

Towles has once again given us an unforgettable read filled with captivating characters and fascinating experiences along the way!

I can’t quit thinking about The Lincoln Highway!  I loved it!  My highest recommendation! - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
Left You Dead: NOW A MAJOR DRAMA STARRING JOHN SIMM (Roy Grace #17) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781529004243
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Macmillan UK - September 1st, 2021

Sunday afternoon, a couple goes for a drive, visits a historic site and stops at the supermarket on the way home.  Sounds simple enough.

That’s Niall and Eden Paternoster.   Eden runs in to pick up some cat litter, Niall waits in the car…only to realize he’s been waiting in the parking lot for over 30 minutes.  The store is about to close, so he goes in to find Eden.  But, she’s not there.  She’s nowhere to be found.  When she doesn’t come home by morning, Niall calls the police.  

With evidence of a crime having taken place in their home, Niall finds himself arrested.  But, without a body, will he be charged with murder?  Roy Grace and his team are on the case.  

This 17th book in the Roy Grace series set in Brighton/Hove is just as fresh and new as his first.  I’ve always said there is a moment in each book that takes your breath away - makes you gasp - and he’s done it again.  As usual - an excellent read! - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
A Line to Kill: A Novel (A Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062938169
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - October 19th, 2021

Third in the Daniel Hawthorne series, Horowitz once again pulls the reader in from page 1.  This episode features Anthony and Daniel being invited to a literary festival in Alderney, an island off the south coast of England.  The other guest speakers include a children’s book author, a French poet, a blind psychic, a historian and a TV chef turned cookbook writer.  (That should just about say it all.). It soon becomes obvious that a murderer is among them, when a body is found.  So Hawthorne and Horowitz team up once again to solve the crime.  And, as usual, the interaction between the two is complicated — and so much fun to read.  

This locked location mystery is just as ingenious as The Word is Murder and the Sentence is Death.  Horowitz at his best!  I loved it! - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
The Man Who Died Twice: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984880994
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pamela Dorman Books - September 28th, 2021

Well, the wait is over!  The Man Who Died Twice, the second book in The Thursday Murder Club series is here!  And, what a treat it is!  We’re back with Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Ron and Joyce.  As they bask in their solving of the recent real-life murder case, Elizabeth gets a note from an old friend, asking her to come visit him…he's recently moved into Coopers Chase.  But the note is signed Marcus Carmichael and Elizabeth last saw Marcus in 1981 - the year his dead body was pulled from the Thames River.  

So, their new adventure begins here.  With murders galore, follow this quartet of septuagenarians on this latest escapade.  With Richard Osman’s cunning, skill and humor, you can’t beat this series!  It’s definitely 2021 Top 10 material! - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
The Girl Who Died: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250793737
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Minotaur Books - May 4th, 2021

Be sure to pick up a copy of The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jonasson, his latest standalone.  Believe me, it has everything - Skala, a small secluded village in the uppermost northern tip of Iceland, ten local residents, the new school marm - hired to teach the two children in Skala, a haunted house and at least one death.  Una has left Reykjavik to take the teacher’s position in Skala.  But she’s the stranger in town and the villagers are less than welcoming.  And then, a death occurs.

I couldn’t put The Girl Who Died down.  Jonasson’s writing just keeps getting better.  Author of the Ari Thor series and the Hulda Hermannsdottir series, this new standalone gives us another look at Iceland - this time through Una’s eyes.  I loved it! - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
The Maidens Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250304452
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Celadon Books - June 15th, 2021

Author of last year’s highly acclaimed The Silent Patient, this year Alex gives us The Maidens.  And, I’m sure it will also be a hit!

Set in Cambridge, a group of girls who call themselves the Maidens are students of Edward Fosca, a charismatic Greek tragedy professor.  

They are his loyal devotees.  

Mariana is a group therapist, a former student at Cambridge, and whose niece Zoe is studying there.  When Zoe calls, stating one of her friends has been found murdered, Mariana goes to Zoe’s aid.   Once she’s at Cambridge and meets  Professor Fosca, she’s sure he is the murderer.  So, how to prove it?  

Be sure to pick up a copy!  Michaelides is due another huge success with The Maidens.  - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
The Windsor Knot: A Novel (Her Majesty the Queen Investigates #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780063050006
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow - March 9th, 2021

What an unexpected delight! 

 A quote from the back of the book:   “S J Bennett captures Queen Elizabeth’s voice with skill, nuance, wit, and genuine charm in this imaginative and engaging mystery that portrays Her Majesty as she’s rarely seen:  kind yet worldly, decisive, shrewd, and most important, a great judge of character.”  There’s no way to say it better.  

A guest is found dead in one of Windsor Castle’s bedrooms.  Was it suicide?  The Queen thinks not.  It’s murder, pure and simple. But, the official investigation heads down a rabbit hole, so Her Majesty begins to make a few inquiries of her own, discreetly, of course.  With the help of her assistant private secretary, Rozie, the Queen goes about her royal duties, all the while investigating the murder. 

Don’t miss out on The Windsor Knot.  I’m already waiting for a sequel. - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
Hostage Cover Image
ISBN: 9781728245522
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Sourcebooks Landmark - June 22nd, 2021

Talk about a book that’s  perfect as a movie…pick up a copy of Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.  Non-stop action from the get-go, Mina is a flight attendant who is working the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney - 20 hours in the air.  But her thoughts are on her crumbling marriage and five-year-old daughter.  Scarcely has the plane got off the ground when Mina is given a note - by an anonymous passenger - who states that Mina’s daughter will not be hurt if Mina ensures the flight never reaches Sydney.  And there begins the saga that will last 20 hours.  

Mackintosh again delivers a superb novel, one full of hold-your-breath moments and as always, an extraordinary ending.  If you’ve read any of her previous novels (I See You, I Let You Go - to name a couple), you’re sure to love The Hostage.  And, it sure to be on my 2021 Top 10 list! - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
The Good Turn Cover Image
ISBN: 9798200696345
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Blackstone Publishing - August 31st, 2021

Third in the Cormac Reilly series, this episode finds Reilly struggling with supervisors and his personal life.  But crime takes no holiday.  Garda Peter Fisher is transferred out of Galway, awaiting possible prosecution for killing a kidnapping suspect.  Cormac finds himself suspended.  Kidnapping, drug-running, police corruption and murder.  This one has it all.  

Following The Ruin and The ScholarThe Good Turn just may be the best yet!  - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
Nothing Ventured (William Warwick Novels #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250753434
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - September 8th, 2020

Rookie Detective William Warwick has been assigned to Scotland Yard’s arts and antiquities squad, and his first case revolves around the theft of a priceless Rembrandt painting.

Along the way he’ll encounter a suave art collector, a formidable lawyer and a woman with a secret.  William Warwick has a future - Archer’s latest wonder.  - Brenda

Hidden in Plain Sight: A Detective William Warwick Novel (William Warwick Novels #2) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250801197
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - September 14th, 2021

Jeffrey Archer's Hidden in Plain Sight is the second novel featuring Detective William Warwick, by the master storyteller and #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Clifton Chronicles

This is not a detective story, this is a story about a detective . . .

Turn a Blind Eye: A Detective William Warwick Novel (William Warwick Novels #3) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250801203
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Paperbacks - August 24th, 2021

Turn a Blind Eye is the third installment in the gripping story of Detective Inspector William Warwick, by master storyteller Jeffrey Archer, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Clifton Chronicles.