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Amateur Sleuths: It's Not Their Day Job!

Amateur Sleuths

You never know when you’ll have to solve a crime. It could be when you’re bored at home with your sisters, when you’re visiting a researcher’s house to see their collection of plants, or even when you’ve hit a dead end in your Hollywood career. Luckily, these ladies and gentlemen were up for the call, even when it wasn’t their job. Keep up with these amateur sleuths and see if you can figure out "whodunit."

The Frangipani Tree Mystery

'The Frangipani Tree Mystery,' by Ovidia Yu

First in a delightfully charming crime series set in 1930s Singapore, introducing amateur sleuth Su Lin, a local girl stepping in as governess for the Acting Governor of Singapore.

1936 in the Crown Colony of Singapore, and the British abdication crisis and rising Japanese threat seem very far away. When the Irish nanny looking after Acting Governor Palin's daughter dies suddenly - and in mysterious circumstances - mission school-educated local girl Su Lin - an aspiring journalist trying to escape an arranged marriage - is invited to take her place.

But then another murder at the residence occurs and it seems very likely that a killer is stalking the corridors of Government House. It now takes all Su Lin's traditional skills and intelligence to help British-born Chief Inspector Thomas LeFroy solve the murders - and escape with her own life.

The Widows of Malabar Hill

'The Widows of Malabar Hill,' by Sujata Massey

1920s India: Perveen Mistry, Bombay's only female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in full purdah when the case takes a turn toward the murderous. The author of the Agatha and Macavity Award–winning Rei Shimura novels brings us an atmospheric new historical mystery with a captivating heroine.

Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father's law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women's legal rights especially important to her.

Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? Perveen is suspicious, especially since one of the widows has signed her form with an X—meaning she probably couldn't even read the document. The Farid widows live in full purdah—in strict seclusion, never leaving the women's quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate, and realizes her instincts were correct when tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are in further danger.

Inspired in part by the woman who made history as India's first female attorney, The Widows of Malabar Hill is a richly wrought story of multicultural 1920s Bombay as well as the debut of a sharp new sleuth.

Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing

'Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing,' by Maryla Szymiczkowa

A charming, witty, and deliciously spooky mystery, inspired by the work of Agatha Christie, following a bored socialite who becomes Cracow’s most cunning amateur sleuth.

Cracow, 1893. Zofia Turbotyńska—professor’s wife and socialite—is bored at home, with little to do but plan a charity auction sponsored by the wealthy residents of a local nursing home and the nuns who work there.

But when one of those residents is found dead, Zofia finds a calling: solving crimes. Ridiculed by the police, who have declared the deaths of natural cause, she starts her own murder investigation, unbeknownst to anyone but her loyal cook Franciszka and one reluctant nun. With her husband blissfully unaware of her secret, Zofia remakes herself into Cracow’s greatest—or at the very least, most surprising—amateur detective.

Full of period character and charm, Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing proves that everyone is capable of finding their passion in life, however unlikely it may seem.

Death in Paris

'Death in Paris,' by Emilia Bernhard

The only thing chillier than a Parisian winter is cold-blooded murder.

When French financier Edgar Bowen drowns in a bowl of soup, his former girlfriend, American Rachel Levis, is alarmed by the unnatural death. Who dies eating a nice vichyssoise? But when she overhears a mourner at his funeral describing the circumstances of his death, something sounds even stranger: a bottle of rosé was on the dining table when he died. The only problem: Edgar loathed rosé. If he wasn't drinking it, who was?

After the police rule the death accidental, Rachel knows it's up to her and her best friend Magda to investigate. As the two Americans immerse themselves in Edgar's upper-class world, the list of suspects grows: Could it have been his son, who inherited his money and lavish apartment? His icy ex-wife? His greedy new girlfriend? His impoverished personal assistant?

But when the suspects start dropping like flies, Rachel and Magda realize the murderer is tying up loose ends. It'll be up to two amateur sleuths to solve their first case before the murderer decides they're next...

The Clutter Corpse

'The Clutter Corpse,' by Simon Brett

Introducing an engaging new amateur sleuth, declutterer Ellen Curtis, in the first of a brilliant new mystery series.

Ellen Curtis runs her own business helping people who are running out of space. As a declutterer, she is used to encountering all sorts of weird and wonderful objects in the course of her work. What she has never before encountered is a dead body.

When Ellen stumbles across the body of a young woman in an over-cluttered flat, suspicion immediately falls on the deceased homeowner's son, who has recently absconded from prison. No doubt Nate Ogden is guilty of many things - but is he really the killer? Discovering a link between the victim and her own past, Ellen sets out to uncover the truth. But where has her best friend disappeared to? And is Ellen really prepared for the shocking revelations to follow?

Thin Ice

'Thin Ice,' by Paige Shelton

Beth Rivers is on the run - she's doing the only thing she could think of to keep herself safe. Known to the world as thriller author Elizabeth Fairchild, she had become the subject of a fanatic's obsession. After being held in a van for three days by her kidnapper, Levi Brooks, Beth managed to escape, and until he is captured, she's got to get away. Cold and remote, Alaska seems tailormade for her to hideout. Beth's new home in Alaska is sparsely populated with people who all seem to be running or hiding from something, and though she accidentally booked a room at a halfway house, she feels safer than she's felt since Levi took her. That is, until she's told about a local death that's a suspected murder. Could the death of Linda Rafferty have anything to do with her horror at the hands of Levi Brooks? As Beth navigates her way through the wilds of her new home, her memories of her time in the van are coming back, replaying the terror and the fear--and threatening to keep her from healing, from reclaiming her old life again. Can she get back to normal, will she ever truly feel safe, and can she help solve the local mystery, if only so she doesn't have to think about her own?

The Thursday Murder Club

'The Thursday Murder Club,' by Richard Osman

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves. A female cop with her first big case. A brutal murder
Welcome to... THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB


In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it's too late?

Still Lives

'Still Lives,' by Maria Hummel

Kim Lord is an avant-garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition. Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women: the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others, and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.

As the city's richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum's opening night, all the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution's flailing finances.

Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala.

Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls on the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie's ex. A rogue's gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord's disappearance, she'll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

Set against a culture that often fetishizes violence, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world's hall of mirrors, and one woman's journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets.

The Vanished Bride

'The Vanished Bride,' by Bella Ellis

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson's daughters--the Brontë sisters--learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.
 
These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent "lady detectors." Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, "detecting is reading between the lines--it's seeing what is not there."
 
As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman's place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril...

 

A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder

'The Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder,' by Dianne Freeman

Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. After an obligatory year spent mourning her philandering husband, Reggie, she puts aside her drab black gowns, leaving the countryside and her money-grubbing in-laws behind. With her young daughter in tow, Frances rents a home in Belgravia and prepares to welcome her sister, Lily, arriving from New York-for her first London season.

No sooner has Frances begun her new life than the ghosts of her old one make an unwelcome appearance. The Metropolitan police receive an anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband's death. Frances assures Inspector Delaney of her innocence, but she's also keen to keep him from learning the scandalous circumstances of Reggie's demise. As fate would have it, her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story.

While busy with social engagements on Lily's behalf, and worrying if Reggie really was murdered, Frances learns of mysterious burglaries plaguing London's elite. The investigation brings death to her doorstep, and Frances rallies her wits, a circle of gossips, and the ever-chivalrous Mr. Hazelton to uncover the truth. A killer is in their midst, perhaps even among her sister's suitors. And Frances must unmask the villain before Lily's season-and their lives-come to a most unseemly end...

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne

'The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne,' by Elsa Hart

London, 1703. In a time when the old approaches to science coexist with the new, one elite community attempts to understand the world by collecting its wonders. Sir Barnaby Mayne, the most formidable of these collectors, has devoted his life to filling his cabinets. While the curious-minded vie for invitations to study the rare stones, bones, books, and artifacts he has amassed, some visitors come with a darker purpose.

For Cecily Kay, it is a passion for plants that brings her to the Mayne house. The only puzzle she expects to encounter is how to locate the specimens she needs within Sir Barnaby's crowded cabinets. But when her host is stabbed to death, Cecily finds the confession of the supposed killer unconvincing. She pays attention to details--years of practice have taught her that the smallest particulars can distinguish a harmless herb from a deadly one--and in the case of Sir Barnaby's murder, there are too many inconsistencies for her to ignore.

To discover the truth, Cecily must enter the world of the collectors, a realm where intellect is distorted by obsession and greed. As her pursuit of answers brings her closer to a killer, she risks being given a final resting place amid the bones that wait, silent and still, in the cabinets of Barnaby Mayne.

The Right Sort of Man

'The Right Sort of Man,' by Allison Montclair

In a London slowly recovering from the ravages of World War II, two very different women join forces to launch a business venture in the heart of Mayfair--The Right Sort Marriage Bureau. Miss Iris Sparks, avuncular and unmarried, and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge, practical and widowed with a young son, are determined to achieve some independence and do some good in a rapidly changing world.But the promising start to their marriage bureau is threatened when their newest client, Tillie La Salle, is found murdered and the man arrested for the crime is one Dickie Trower, the prospective husband they matched her with. While the police are convinced they have their man, Miss Sparks and Mrs. Bainbridge are not. To clear Trower's name--and to rescue their fledging operation's reputation--Sparks and Bainbridge decide to investigate on their own, using the skills and contacts they've each acquired through life and their individual adventures during the recent war. In this charming, compelling debut, Allison Montclair blends meticulous research with two brilliantly imagined main characters into the first in a wonderful new series.

Murder at Hotel 1911

'Murder at Hotel 1911,' by Audrey Keown

If you want to spend a night amid the luxury and charm of the early 20th century, book a room at Hotel 1911. You'll find 28-year-old Ivy Nichols behind the reception desk. The hotel is Ivy's only link to the family that abandoned her when she was a small child. Now, plagued by panic attacks, she pedals her sea-green Schwinn bicycle to work every evening, hoping desperately to hold on to her job.

When wealthy, imperious Ms. Swain arrives at the hotel and belittles Ivy, the young woman seeks consolation in the welcoming kitchen of George, the hotel's chef. Despite her tormentor's barbs, she dutifully informs George that Ms. Swain has a deadly allergy to shellfish. So when Ms. Swain collapses at dinner and dies, the police suspect that the chef made a tragic, inexcusable error. Desperate to save George's career, Ivy sets out sleuthing. She learns that numerous people in and around the hotel had motives to contaminate Ms. Swain's plate. Among them are Jeffrey Swain, the victim's son and heir; painter Rose Jewett; and British expat Hemal Sandeep.

Even after the police find traces of shellfish in George's kitchen, Ivy is determined to clear her friend's name. But the stress of the investigation, in a hotel filled with suspects, threatens to precipitate another terrifying panic attack...or something more deadly.

Skin Deep

'Skin Deep,' by Sung Woo

 

Korean-American adoptee Siobhan O'Brien has spent much of her life explaining her name and her family to strangers, but her more pressing problem is whether to carry on the PI agency that her dead boss unexpectedly left to her. Easing into middle age, Siobhan would generally rather have a donut than a romance, but when an old friend and asks Siobhan to find her daughter who has disappeared from her dorm room, the rookie private detective's search begins in Llewellyn College.

A private institution of higher learning in upstate New York, Llewellyn, for the first time in its two- hundred-year history, has opened its doors to men, causing a clash between the female students and their former fashion-model president. The financial reasons prompting the change seem like a ruse when fringe- group The Womyn of Llewellyn, aided by Siobhan, discover a newly built science center, which is under 24- hour surveillance.

As Siobhan delves deeper into locating the missing girl and campus politics, she encounters vegan cooking that just might kill her, possibly deadly yoga poses, and politely dangerous billionaires. This first in a new series introduces an endearing PI heroine readers aren't going to want to put down.

Hollywood Homicide

'Hollywood Homicide,' by Kelle Garrett

Dayna Anderson doesn't set out to solve a murder. All the semifamous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. So after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen grand reward. But Dayna soon finds herself doing a full-on investigation, wanting more than just money--she wants justice for the victim. She chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes, and movie premieres, loving every second of it--until someone tries to kill her. And there are no second takes in real life.

The Plot is Murder

'The Plot is Murder,' by V.M. Burns

Samantha Washington has dreamed of owning her own mystery bookstore for as long as she can remember. And as she prepares for the store’s grand opening, she’s also realizing another dream—penning a cozy mystery set in England between the wars. While Samantha hires employees and fills the shelves with the latest mysteries, quick-witted Lady Penelope Marsh, long-overshadowed by her beautiful sister Daphne, refuses to lose the besotted Victor Carlston to her sibling's charms. When one of Daphne's suitors is murdered in a maze, Penelope steps in to solve the labyrinthine puzzle and win Victor.
 
But as Samantha indulges her imagination, the unimaginable happens in real life. A shady realtor turns up dead in her backyard, and the police suspect her—after all, the owner of a mystery bookstore might know a thing or two about murder. Aided by her feisty grandmother and an enthusiastic ensemble of colorful retirees, Samantha is determined to close the case before she opens her store. But will she live to conclude her own story when the killer has a revised ending in mind for her?

Published on January 13, 2021
Last Modified March 06, 2021