It’s that most marvelous time of the year: the time of top books of the year from all the news and literary outlets. Murder & Mayhem is here to bring you an overview of the amazing murder mystery books released this year. So instead of a top 2022 list, we’re breaking convention a little by exploring the trends in the genre that made it such a great year. Fear not though, we've highlighted a few recommendations from each trend. Let’s go!
More New Cozies
While cozies have long been a standard in murder mysteries for decades, we’re seeing some changes in the script. Writer Olivia Blacke (known for Killer Content and just released Vinyl Resting Place) noted, “You've got the queer cozies that are starting to come out” as well as more diverse cozies. “Five years ago cozies were very, very white,” she noted. Not only are we seeing mysteries from folks with different ethnic and racial backgrounds, but there’s also more LGBTQ+ representation as well. Plus there are edgier elements to cozies with discussions of racism, mental health, and more. It’s a refreshing update to the subgenre.
The Bangalore Detective Club
In this new cozy series taking place in 1920s Bangalore, India, Kaveri is recently married to the young doctor Ramu and moved to a new town. She’s trying to balance marriage life while also secretly studying mathematics. But when a body is found during a dinner party at the Century Club, Kaveri cannot stop herself from investigating and finding a darker side of life in Bangalore.
Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies
Blacke cited this quasi-cozy series as an example of queer mysteries that came out this year. In the first Pies Before Guys Mystery, Daisy Ellery bakes delicious pies by day, but then sends murderous pies to abusive boyfriends and husbands at night. To live this life, she can’t get close to anyone. But when she meets Noel, a handsome and kind apple grower, as well as activist college student Melly, she finds her heart torn in three. But when a blackmail letter arrives, Daisy fears her secret may be out and must figure out who is behind it all. Here’s our interview with Misha Popp.
More Diversity Across the Genre
But it’s not just cozies that are becoming more diverse. Jenna Jankowski, Associate Editor at Sourcebooks, wrote: “Across the board we’re seeing a push for diversity, and that applies to crime fiction, too. Readers are looking for stories populated by diverse characters and stories written by folks from marginalized communities.”
Anywhere You Run
Since Morris’ second book has been the darling of so many end of the year lists, it would be remiss not to include it. It’s 1964, and the civil rights movement is going strong. When Violet kills her attacker, a white man, she flees to Georgia, knowing that as Black woman she will not get a fair trial. However, her sister, Marigold, has stayed behind working for the movement. But trouble comes for her when she finds herself pregnant. With the scrutiny of the police looking for her sister, she also runs away, but northwards. Can they escape their pasts?
Locked Room Mysteries
Locked Room mysteries— or impossible crimes—were very popular in the golden age of mystery, and then fell out of favor…until now. These are mysteries where someone is killed in a “locked room” that seems impossible without the supernatural. Thanks to writers like Gigi Pandian and others, we’re seeing these mysteries rising up again.
Under Lock & Skeleton Key: A Secret Staircase Mystery
There seemed to be no limit to magician Tempest Raj’s career—until a stage performance nearly killed her. Now she’s back at her childhood home, unsure of her next steps. In the meantime, she decides to help her father’s business, Secret Staircase Construction, that creates magical secret entrances and exits. But when a body of her rival falls out of the wall of a client’s home from a space that had not been opened up in a century, Tempest has to figure out how this was possible. The sequel The Raven Thief comes out next year. Here’s our interview with Gigi Pandian earlier this year.
This book has been hitting all the year-end lists, including taking the prize for Best Goodreads Mystery for the year. Molly Gray’s Gran has died, leaving her adrift in a world of social mores that she doesn’t quite understand. So she continues on in her job as a hotel maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. But when she stumbles on the body of a guest in his locked room, her social awkwardness results in the police suspecting her of the crime. Now Molly has to figure out how he was killed and who killed him.
Genre Bending Mysteries
Jankowski said that one of the exciting developments this year was “seeing the lines blur a bit between genres—there were quite a few popular titles this year that skewed speculative.” We’re also seeing a gothic revival including gothic thrillers.
Beatriz thinks she has found the peace and wealth that she is seeking when she marries Don Rodolfo Solórzano. She moves into his hacienda, away from the political turmoil outside. But something is wrong at the hacienda, and there are too many unanswered questions including what happened to Don Rodolfo’s first wife. Beatriz befriends a young priest who has otherworldly talents in the hopes of some protection, but it may not be enough. Can she get to the bottom of it, or better yet, can she survive?
The Paradox Hotel
January Cole is not having a good day. Head of security for Paradox Hotel, the top accommodation for luxury time travelers, she’s beset by one problem after another. While it’s not fun trying to catch dinosaurs that someone illegally brought back to the present time and a giant summit starting that day, nothing is worse than finding a man’s body in a room that no one but January can see. Can she figure out what is going on before she loses her life, or worse, her mind?