John's Staff Picks

John McDougall, Event Coordinator at Murder By The Book since 2010

I love watching the parts of a mystery fall into place, but I think what really pulls me in is the characters. Cozies are so fun because you get to know these small towns and wish you could visit. Reading about Lady Emily in Tasha Alexander's books is like getting to catch up with an old friend. I want characters that break your heart like Marc Rochat in The Watchers, or make you laugh like Victoria Laurie and Mary Kay Andrews's characters always do. I love picking up a book like City of Dark Magic and thinking, ‘These things shouldn't really fit together, but they totally do.’ You can't help but want to hang on for the ride.

For additional cozy mystery recommendations, check out John's Cozy Corner.


John's Top Reads of 2023:
(In reading order because I couldn't rank them)

Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo
The Villa by Rachel Hawkins 
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
Your Lonely Nights Are Over by Adam Sass
Murder in Postscript by Mary Winters
The Only One Left by Riley Sager
Killing Me by Michelle Gagnon
The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer
A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
The Paris Mystery by Kirsty Manning
Glory Be by Danielle Arceneaux

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

Staff Pick Badge
The Excitements: A Novel By CJ Wray Cover Image
By CJ Wray
ISBN: 9780063337480
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - January 30th, 2024

The perfect blend of the Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia MacNeal and Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn!

Penny and Josephine have lived their lives with the philosophy of toujours gai (always cheerful). Now in their 90s, the sisters are heading to Paris with their great-nephew to receive the Légion d’honneur for their work during WWII, and maybe settle some old scores. I adored this one! - John

Staff Pick Badge
Hell Bent: A Novel (Ninth House Series #2) By Leigh Bardugo Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250313102
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Flatiron Books - January 10th, 2023

It's very rare that I say a book is perfect, and Hell Bent is perfect! Watching Bardugo expand the world she created in Ninth House was a pure delight. She's a master at blending mystery and urban fantasy in a way that almost feels like she's created a new genre. With Alex, she's brought new depth to the trope of the broken but bad-ass urban fantasy heroine. 

Despite her characters literally facing their worst fears, Bardugo still finds moments of tenderness as they come together to save Darlington. I did not want Hell Bent to end! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
The Villa: A Novel By Rachel Hawkins Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250834591
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - November 7th, 2023

Take a cozy mystery writer whose life has fallen apart like a cozy heroine and put her in an Italian murder villa with her self-help guru bestie, and a add a past storyline where a Mary Shelley inspired writer is having a Fleetwood Mac summer, and you've got thriller gold! The Villa is a BLAST, and I'm so excited we finally get to host Rachel for one of her thrillers. - John 

Staff Pick Badge
The Atlas Six (Atlas Series #1) By Olivie Blake Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250854544
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Tor Books - September 6th, 2022

Six of the world's best magicians have been offered a chance to join The Alexandria Society. If accepted, they'll have untold power and knowledge at their disposal.

The catch? There are only five spots available. Follow the six hopefuls as they form alliances, learn about the society, and try to figure out how the sixth hopeful will be "eliminated." 

I finished 2022 in a reading slump, and this excellent, character driven read seems to have pulled me out of it. I can't wait to start the sequel! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
Your Lonely Nights Are Over By Adam Sass Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593526583
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - September 12th, 2023

We all love a Final Girl, but with Adam Sass's Your Lonely Nights Are Over  it's time for the rise of the Final Gay. Sass takes all the humor and nail biting suspense of a great slasher and uses that framework to tell a story about queer survival and friendship. - John 

Murder in Postscript (A Lady of Letters Mystery #1) By Mary Winters Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593548769
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - March 28th, 2023

This absolutely delightful read is perfect for Dianna Freeman, Manda Collins, and Darcie Wilde fans. 

Mary Winters has the perfect balance of humor, mystery, and romance, and I can't wait for the next in the series! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
The Only One Left: A Novel By Riley Sager Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593183229
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Dutton - June 20th, 2023

A caregiver with a complicated past looking after a woman rumored to have murdered her family, a crumbling mansion at the edge of a crumbling cliff... This is pure Gothic deliciousness, and one of my favorite Riley Sager reads! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
Killing Me (An Amber Jamison Novel #1) By Michelle Gagnon Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593540749
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - May 16th, 2023

Amber's already been saved from one serial killer, but she must team up with the lovable misfits living at The Getaway (a seedy Vegas motel that's a bargain at $25 a night) to save herself from ANOTHER one.

Can a "reformed" con artist, a noir obsessed hotel owner turned armchair detective, a charming sexworker, and a mysterious serial killer hunter take down one of the most prolific killers ever?

This is the most fun I've had reading a book in a while. It's laugh out loud funny, and I didn't want it to end. Finlay Donovan fans, this needs to be your next read! - John

Staff Pick Badge
The Wishing Game: A Novel By Meg Shaffer Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593598832
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - May 30th, 2023

Years ago, a reclusive mega-bestselling children’s author quit writing under mysterious circumstances. Suddenly he resurfaces with a brand-new book and a one-of-a-kind competition, offering a prize that will change the winner’s life in this absorbing and whimsical novel.

This is one of my favorite things I've read in 2023 so far!  It's a love letter to the books we found as young readers, and how the lessons they taught can still help us today. I can't recommend it highly enough! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel (Shades of Magic #1) By V. E. Schwab Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250891211
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Tor Books - May 16th, 2023

I love a fun street-smart thief, and a moody magician. I don't know why I waited so long to read this series, but I inhaled it! Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows, or Brandon Sanderson's Misborn. - John 

Staff Pick Badge
The Paris Mystery: A Novel By Kirsty Manning Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593685549
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - July 25th, 2023

It's 1938, and Australian reporter Charlie James has just accepted a new job in Paris. Her first assignment is to cover a lavish society party that ends in murder. Manning has created a vivid world of French couture, food, and high society shenanigans. Charlie is a wonderful new sleuth, and I can't wait for the next in the series. I loved it! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
Glory Be: A Glory Broussard Mystery By Danielle Arceneaux Cover Image
ISBN: 9781639364831
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pegasus Crime - October 3rd, 2023

Recently divorced, Glory Broussard spends her Sunday mornings running numbers out of her local coffee shop. When her best friend is found dead, an apparent suicide, she is convinced it's murder and takes matters into her own hands. Not only is Glory a fantastic community, but Broussard has also created a rich community for her. Glory's going to do things her way, and lord help anyone who tries to stop her. I can't wait for her next adventure. - John