Jessica's Staff Picks

Jessica Rentcome at Murder By The Book since 2018

My dad handed me Harry Potter and Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series and since then, I’ve had a fulfilling long-term relationship with sci-fi and fantasy and everything related to Geekdom. My favorite types of stories are the ones where ordinary people are whisked away to something grand and epic and wondrous (I don’t want to wonder too hard about what that says about my own secret desires...)

Whether it’s epic world-building like Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and China Miéville; something a little wonderful and unsettling like Neil Gaiman; thought-provoking and sociopolitical like Octavia Butler and Seanan McGuire; or pure magic like JK Rowling, VE Schwab, Jessica Townsend—if it’s got a touch of fantasy, I’m there.

I like my trashy romances and cheap paperback pulp sci-fi stories, too. And I can class it up with Jane Austen—if need be—but fantasy is, and always will be, my home.


Sawkill Girls Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062696601
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - October 2nd, 2018

Welcome to Sawkill Rock where dozens of girls have gone missing over the course of the last few decades and a boogeyman known as The Collector is terrifyingly real and something lurks in the circle of rocks deep in the woods. 

Marion has just lost her father and moved to Sawkill with her mother and older sister, Charlotte. But when local queen bee Val—who has a dark, supernatural secret—sets her sights on Charlotte, Marion and the police chief’s daughter, Zoey, team up to figure out what’s been happening to Sawkill’s girls. 

And amidst the turmoil, the magic and power of the island itself is at work....

The perfect blend of Mean Girls and Stranger Things, a dash of teenage angst and healthy sprinkling of horror, Sawkill Girls is a must-read. - Jessica

Zero Sum Game (Cas Russell #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250180254
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Tor Books - October 2nd, 2018

Zero Sum Game follows Cas who has the ability to find anything you need—people, information, objects. She can also see math and physics like it’s a living breathing thing in the world which allows her to kick serious butt by calculating the perfect angle, degree, and velocity of each kick and punch.

Cas is plunged into the middle of a government conspiracy when she is assigned to find a young woman who has been captured by the Cartel. Except an ex-cop is on her trail and a string of murders and outbursts of extreme violence is linked to a mind control experiment that Cas is growing steadily immune to...

Zero Sum Game is insanely fast-paced and fun and is absolutely perfect for fans of The Matrix and women who kick butt. - Jessica

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84K Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316316804
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Orbit - May 22nd, 2018

84K by Claire North is a dark sci-fi novel that fans of 1984, Taken, and Brave New World will enjoy. In this British dystopian future, all civil services have been commercialized by The Company. Crimes are audited and valued and a price is established. The cost of murder is £84K. If you can’t pay the crime, you are sent to the patty line—a euphemism for forced labor camps. Theo Miller works in the Crime Audit Office, assigning and assessing the value and cost of the crimes that come across his desk, but is generally unfeeling and numb to the world around him. When a woman from his past approaches him with information that may bring down The Company but is later murdered, Theo finds himself investigating her murder and the information she uncovered about The Company. But at every turn, The Company is looking to shut him up before the truth gets out. 

This novel reads like literary fiction and the 1984 influences are strong. At other times, the lack of punctuation and stream-of-consciousness style writing combined with specific formatting of paragraphs and page breaks means that the novel also sometimes comes across like poetry. 84K is at times suffocatingly bleak and you want to rage right alongside the characters. The violence in the novel is startling and explicit but it never feels gratuitous. With each turn of the page, you sink lower and lower into despair before Claire North finally—finallyshines a ray of hope. While a dense read (and definitely not a casual, beach read), 84K delivers a startling, bleak sci-fi thriller that leaves you completely stunned. - Jessica

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Foundryside: A Novel (The Founders Trilogy #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524760366
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown - August 21st, 2018

Foundryside is the first book in a new series from Robert Jackson Bennett. In its essence, it's a series of heist jobs--thieves stealing from thieves, the poor stealing from the rich, the rich stealing from the rich, and so on. A crew of unlikely characters with intriguing backstories band together to bring down a corrupt Merchant house that rules over the slums of RJB's immaculately built world. The magic of this world--scriving--is the core of the story and keeps things interesting. Scriving is part magic and part technology: the art of inscribing code and language into everyday objects to give them sentience.

The twist ending and intriguing characters made me way more than ready for book 2! 

If you love heist stories with a twist ending, this one's for you. If you love Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom, this one's for you. - Jessica

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The Cuckoo's Calling (A Cormoran Strike Novel) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316206853
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Mulholland Books - April 29th, 2014

A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Curse of the Werewolf Boy (Maudlin Towers) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781681199320
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Bloomsbury Children's Books - July 10th, 2018

Maudlin Towers: Curse of the Werewolf Boy by Chris Priestley is perfect for younger readers transitioning into more complex stories. This novel is reminiscent of Lemony Snicket’s style of writing with a dash of Addams Family and a smattering of beautiful and whimsical illustrations (courtesy of Chris Priestley himself). The story centers on Sponge and Mildew, two young boys who attend Maudlin Towers (a boarding school) as they investigate ghosts, the case of the missing School Spoon, werewolves, and even time travel—all while avoiding Mr. Stupendo’s gym class and rogue vikings. 


Curse of the Werewolf Boy is a great introductory read to high-level mystery concepts as Sponge and Mildew learn what suspects, red herrings, and motives are. I laughed out loud more times than I can count when reading through this as there is humor for everyone to enjoy—from kiddos to adults. And as if that wasn’t enough to entice you, the illustrations on almost every page are absolutely precious and creepy and wonderful. - Jessica

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This Body's Not Big Enough for Both of Us: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385543965
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday - July 31st, 2018

This Body's Not Big Enough for Both of Us by Edgar Cantero is a raunchy, vulgar, hilarious take on the hard-boiled detective/noir mystery with a Jekyll and Hyde twist. Adrian and Zooey Kimrean (known as AZ Kimrean) are chimeric twins that share the same body but control different hemispheres of the brain (Adrian is the logical one and oftentimes reminds me of Sherlock Holmes, while Zooey is the emotional one and is often easily distracted and a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac). 

The story kicks off when San Francisco PD calls in a favor and AZ are asked to investigate the murders of 2 sons of a local mobster/gang boss. From there, the story takes on a life of its own as the fourth wall is frequently broken, dozens of pop culture references are made, and archetypes and tropes of the noir genre are played out for laughs. Despite the heavy humor elements of the novel, it remains a deeply satisfying case to investigate and the balance between Adrian’s Sherlockian observations and Zooey’s outrageous people skills combine for the best of both detective worlds. 

I loved this book so, so much and spent more time laughing out loud than I probably should have during a murder investigation. I cannot wait to read it again. - Jessica

All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries Cover Image
ISBN: 9780765397539
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: - May 2nd, 2017

Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series is perfect for anyone who can relate to an apathetic robot who doesn’t really want to work and would rather just kick back, watch Netflix, and binge the latest soap opera. Instead of doing just that, Murderbot is forced to save the group of scientists it has been assigned to protect on an off-world planet. A perfect, concise, fun, fast-paced adventure.