My Favorite Books of 2022, Part 1: Mysteries

This is how I ended most days in 2022…trying to find a way to squeeze under the covers between the technology and the cats that consider my bed their territory and to pick up wherever I left off at one of the books I’m reading at the time (it’s rare that I’m only reading one at a time). If I can steal back some space from my cats and retire my technology for the night, I love easing into sleep by reading, usually novels.

I track my leisure reading on GoodReads, which tells me that this year, my leisure reading consisted of 21,391 pages from 62 books. I usually set myself a challenge of reading 50 books, so this year I beat my goal by about 25%. Still, I didn’t read as much as last year, which was my major COVID year, when I ended up reading 72 books!

Therefore, I thought I would share what some of my favorite books that I read over the past year. Most, but not all, of these books were published in 2022, but 2022 is when I read these books, regardless of when they were released.

I actually have a number of books to recommend, but it’s getting late. So I think I’ll split this into my more light reading books today, and follow up tomorrow (I hope…) with some other favorites.

For just light reading, I tend towards cosy mysteries. Those are mysteries that focus more on the characters and the community and such, but solving a crime is part of it. In cosy mysteries (the Agatha Christie series is one of the earliest examples), almost everyone who gets killed is an unpleasant person that nobody really misses and who is killed in a relatively mild way (no sexual violence or blood and guts). They are geared for a female audience (why do I say this? Because the protagonists are almost always women) and often contain recipes or craft projects or other activities mentioned in the book itself. They are, of course, ridiculous, because in what world are bakers, artists, book store owners, coffee shop personnel, craft store artisans, bed and breakfast mangers and such better at solving murders than, say, THE POLICE? But there is always a puzzle to figure out in terms of which of the many suspects is actually guilty, and of course I like the characters and/or the setting…New Orleans, Key West, San Francisco, some idealic snow-bound New England town, etc.

So here are some of those I liked this year….

Favorite Ethnic Cosy Mystery featuring Overly Involved Female Relatives

Dial A for Aunties
(Aunties #1)
by Jesse Q. Sutanto (2021)

This book literally had me laughing out loud.  When Chinese American photographer Meddelin Chan accidentally murders her blind date, her meddlesome Chinese mother and three aunts try to dispose of the body while simultaneously providing all the services for a huge, high-profile, over-the-top billionaire wedding that can make or break the family’s new wedding business. It’s ridiculous, of course, but I loved the insights about Chinese family interactions during this romp of a reverse mystery.  I also enjoyed the next book in the series, Four Aunties and a Wedding (2022).

Favorite Mystery featuring an Invertebrate Detective

Remarkably Bright Creatures
by Shelby Van Pelt (2022)

We were Octopus fans before Octopus fandom was cool.  In fact, my son has loved all the cephalopods since he was about 4, I think.  So naturally I loved this book in which an aquarium octopus figures out the mystery of a missing son way before the humans do.  This is a fantastic debut novel.

Favorite Mystery featuring a Most Unexpected Detective 

All the Queen’s Men
(Her Majesty the Queen Investigates #2)
by S.J. Bennett (2022)

In this clever concept, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has to figure out not only the answer to who murdered one of her staff in the palace, but how to carefully lead the people who are supposed to solve the crime to the right culprit without seeming to be involved at all, since that clearly “just wouldn’t do.”  It’s a fun idea that is handled well.  I read it before the death of the actual Queen Elizabeth and wonder if the series will be continuing now that she is gone. 

Favorite of the Clinton marriage Thriller Face Off

In 2021, former President Bill Clinton published his second thriller co-written with best-selling author James Patterson entitled The President’s Daughter.  The same year, former First Lady Hillary Clinton co-wrote her own thriller with Canadian mystery novelist Louise Penny called State of Terror.  But I only got around to reading them this year.  Which one was better?  Hillary’s BY A MILE!  But you probably aren’t surprised by that.  First of all, I don’t like James Patterson’s writing, whose murder mysteries tends to be much more violent and disturbing than I like.  However, I enjoy Louise Penny’s long series on Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.  Bill’s book is a macho fantasy in which a former President—and former SEAL—who, when his daughter is kidnapped by a terrorist, decides he can’t trust the CIA and such to rescue her, so he does it himself.  Hillary’s book, on the other hand, is based on a female Secretary of State working for a political rival President and who draws upon her informal back channel contacts with a network of female professionals inside and outside the government to prevent a terrorist attack on American soil. It has its issues but at least it is actually a political thriller based in the real world (at least in my opinion, who worked in Washington DC for about 20 years) rather than a story of an ex-President superhero.

Favorite Newly-Discovered North Carolina Author

Michael Malone (died in 2022)

Unfortunately, I only discovered Michael Malone through his obituary. He sounded really good in the write up, so I checked out the three books in his mystery series of detectives Justin & Cuddy set in a fictional version of Hillsborough, NC. They were Uncivil Seasons (1983), Time’s Witness (1989), and First Lady (2001). I found them to be better-than-average and more literate than most mystery books, and I liked the references to North Carolina history and culture. Michael Malone also wrote some non-mystery books I want to read, so maybe those will be in my 2023 list.


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