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 2020 Top Ten:

  1. Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  2. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
  3. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
  4. Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
  5. Murder in Chianti by Camilla Trinchieri
  6. The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart
  7. Death and the Maiden by Ariana Franklin/Samatha Norman
  8. The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos
  9. The Guest List by Lucy Foley
  10. Firewatching by Russ Thomas

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

Staff Pick Badge
When the Stars Go Dark: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593237892
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - April 13th, 2021

Anna Hart is a detective in San Francisco.  When a tragic event happens, Anna retreats to Mendocino, her childhood hometown to grieve.  But she’s not there long before she hears a young girl has gone missing.  Specializing in missing persons, Anna can’t help but to get involved.  And as the case unravels, Mendocino becomes something different from Anna’s memory.  Missing girls, a foster care system gone awry and child trafficking - situations Anna must face, if she’s to solve the case.   

Drawing on her own experiences of growing up in foster care, McLain brings a real, raw authenticity to this book.  - Brenda

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The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525557920
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - April 27th, 2021

Kate Summerscale, author of the acclaimed The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher and more recently, The Wicked Boy now brings us a real ghost story featuring Alma Fielding in her latest The Haunting of Alma Fielding.  Set in late 1930’s London, Alma is a young housewife who is experiencing bizarre activity in her home, a home shared by husband Les, 16-year-old son Donald and a lodger, George.  Cups and saucers thrown off cabinet shelves, eggs flying through the air, untouched coal rising out of the bin, light bulbs vanishing out of sockets - only to be found on the staircase or in another room.  You get the picture.  Fearing police wouldn’t believe her, Alma contacts the newspaper to ask for help.  And, help arrives in the form of Nandor Fodor, a Hungarian immigrant ghost hunter, employed by the International Institute of Psychical Research.

Summerscale’s research follows Fodor’s account of Alma’s poltergeist haunting through to his 1958 published On the Trail of a Poltergeist.

With photographs, extensive research and aid from living descendants, Summerscale has given the reader a true life event woven to rival any novel. - 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
The Postscript Murders Cover Image
ISBN: 9780358418610
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - March 2nd, 2021

DS Harbinder Kaur is on the case again, this time in the sequel to The Stranger Diaries.  When 90-year-old Peggy Smith dies, her caregiver Natalka is tasked with clearing out Peggy’s flat.  While doing so, Natalka notices that a number of Peggy’s crime novels have dedications to Peggy, in particular a postscript - P.S. for PS.  When a gunman breaks into Peggy’s flat and steals a book, Natalka decides this may be a case for the police.  Armed with her knowledge of Peggy’s involvement in so many thrillers, Natalka meets DS Kaur.  And, so it begins.  

Following the huge success of The Stranger Diaries, get ready for DS Kaur’s new case.  You won’t be disappointed. - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
Who is Maud Dixon?: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316500319
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - March 2nd, 2021

Florence Harrow is a wanna-be writer, currently working as a low level employee in a publishing house.  An extraordinary opportunity presents itself when she is given the chance to work for Maud Dixon, the pseudonym for an unnamed author, who has written an instant best seller.  Who is Maud Dixon?  Only her publicist knows.  So, leaving her mundane life behind, Florence sets off to aid Maud in her newest book endeavor.  

But when Florence wakes up in the hospital, and no one knows where Maud is - things become a bit more complicated.

Well-written, with twists galore, Who Is Maud Dixon will keep you guessing until the very end.  Loved it! - Brenda

Staff Pick Badge
The Paris Library: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982134198
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Atria Books - February 9th, 2021

Paris 1939:  As Germany marches into Paris, Odile and her fellow librarians at the American Library in Paris are determined to save the books from Nazi hands.  As German mandates continue to affect the library and its patrons, the librarians join the Resistance…their weapons - books.  Secreting books to their loyal subscribers, the librarians face arrest and deportation daily.  Will the war ever end?  Will Odile and Paul finally marry?

Montana 1983;  Lily, a young girl in small-town Montana, is intrigued with her elderly next-door neighbor, Odile.  Visiting Odile becomes a quiet respite from Lily’s chaotic family, and when Lily expresses interest in learning French, Odile obliges.  As their friendship deepens, Lily learns they share more than a love of language and books.  

Based on the true events of WWII and the ALP librarians, Charles has written an unforgettable novel.  Her ability to transport the reader to war-ravaged Paris feels so real, and I was totally invested in the characters.  And, be sure to read the author’s notes at the end of the book.  Charles has a real winner in The Paris Library. - Brenda

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