After publishing A Splintered Step, the third book in the Sarah McKinney Mystery series, in late 2018, I became absorbed in my current project, a World War 2 novel that requires far more research and revision than the mysteries. However, before submerging myself in wartime Latvia, the setting for Daughters of War, I entered A Splintered Step in a contest sponsored by Chanticleer Reviews.
Then COVID struck. My life narrowed in focus, travel plans were abandoned, and concerns about family superseded any thought of book promotion. For a few weeks I was unable even to write. I forgot about the contest and, like everything else, the Chanticleer Annual Conference was postponed.
During this time, as throughout my life, I found comfort and escape through reading. What did I read? Mysteries, of course! I can’t explain why a meticulously planned murder or a psychopathic killer offers solace when so many are dying in a pandemic, but I’ve confessed my fixation to other readers and found some agreement. In case you too are searching for an escape into fiction, here are some mystery series I recommend:
- Inspector Karen Pirie novels by Val McDermid. There are just three so far. McDermid’s earlier series (Tony Hill and Carol Jordan) has been adapted for TV, called Wire in the Blood, and now streaming on Amazon Prime.
- Ruth Galloway mysteries by Elly Griffiths. I love these not only because of the coincidence that Galloway and Griffiths are my family names, but the forensic anthropologist heroine has a weight problem. So many ways to identify.
- Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope is another detective familiar from TV. Ten seasons are available on Amazon Prime. The latest book in the series, The Darkest Evening, is next on my to-be-read pile. Cleeves also writes the Shetland Island series, and the first book in the Two Rivers series (The Long Call) came out in 2019.
- I devoured Troubled Blood, the fifth Cormoran Strike novel by Robert Galbraith, almost in a single sitting. The dynamic between Cormoran and his sidekick Robyn is irresistible.
Yes, these are all by female British writers—Robert Galbraith being J.K. Rowling’s nom de plume for her mysteries—but before I’m accused of being insular, let me mention Stuart Turton’s debut mystery, The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. This mind-bending mixture of Agatha Christie and Groundhog Day isn’t going to be the first in a series—it couldn’t be. But his next, The Devil and the Dark Water, comes out shortly and promises to be equally extraordinary.
OK, Turton is British too.
The postponed Chanticleer conference took place virtually last month. I was surprised and pleased to receive first place in the CLUE Awards. I had won the award in 2017 for A Dangerous Descent and I didn’t think lightning would strike twice, especially since there was an extra round of judging to narrow the increasing number of thriller and suspense novels entered.
If you haven’t read A Splintered Step, the e-book will be on sale for 99 cents (99 pence in U.K.) for a week starting October 21. I think it’s the best of the series, and you don’t have to have read the earlier books to enjoy this one. Of course, I hope you will, and I hope you will leave a review.
What are you doing to maintain equilibrium in this time of COVID? Reading? Writing? Cooking? Enjoying the outdoors?