Sometimes the pandemic precautions turn claustrophobic on me. Then I search out authors who can tell a good story well and binge-read their works.
Mind you, these have to be books that can completely carry me away from daily reality, that can transport me to new places and new people.
Here are some of my favorite authors for escaping the pandemic:
- Cathrine Ryan Howard first came to my attention with 56 DAYS, about an Irish couple who meet in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic and decide to move in together. Fifty-six days later, neighbors call the police about a nasty smell. A decomposing body is discovered in the shower; the entire place has been wiped clean of finger prints. Not only is this a perfect murder, it was the first mystery I had read that used the pandemic as part of the plot. From there, I read my way through DISTRESS SIGNALS (you’ll never take another cruise after reading this!) and THE LIAR’S GIRL, about a guilty boyfriend who’s just not quite as guilty as he first seemed.
- Lisa Lutz is the author of a popular series about a family of detectives, the Spellmans. The series was light-hearted and fun, but didn’t meet the spellbinding requirement. I was delighted to learn that she’s written several stand-alone novels that are winning attention. THE PASSENGER is an enthralling story about an innocent woman with a dark past on the run. THE ACCOMPLICE, released in January 2022, is about a pair of long-time friends who keep becoming suspects in the deaths of people close to them. Lutz is a skilled storyteller who keeps rolling out the revelations to the very last paragraph.
- Megan Abbott writes absorbing historical mysteries such as THE SONG IS YOU and DIE A LITTLE, both of which take place in post-war Los Angeles. She excels at writing stories that take place in the pressure cooker of family life or high stakes athletic arenas such as THE TURNOUT, which is set in a family-owned ballet school just as the winter Nutcracker season is about to begin, or DARE ME, about girls in a high school cheerleading squad.
- Simone St. James delighted me with THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, a ghost story set in 1922 and featuring an assertive, vengeful female ghost. Many of her earlier books are ghost story / gothic mysteries set in England in the years after the Great War. My favorite of her books is THE SUN DOWN MOTEL, which turns an ordinary roadside motel into one of the scariest haunted places I’ve ever read. This is a moody, atmospheric modern gothic that will transport you out of pandemic claustrophobia. In the BROKEN GIRLS, she writes about a group of girls in a girls’ boarding school of last resort who escape to exact revenge on those who put them there. Her latest book, THE BOOK OF COLD CASES, is due out in March 2022.
Of course, the problem with binge reading is that I can read faster than my favorite authors can write. I have many other favorite writers who simply don’t have more new books for me to read. Here are my top choices:
- Tana French is a must-read author whenever she puts out a new book. Her Dublin Murder Squad mysteries (IN THE WOODS, THE LIKENESS, FAITHFUL PLACE, BROKEN HARBOR and THE TRESPASSER) were phenomenal, often featuring the same characters but seen from different perspectives. Her first stand-alone novel was THE WITCH ELM (2018) and her most recent THE SEARCHER (2020).
- Rachel Howzell Hall is always dependable for a great read. One of my favorites is THEY ALL FALL DOWN, which is a redo of Agatha Christie’s best-selling AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. She also wrote a series featuring LAPD Detective Elouise “Lou” Norton that begins with LAND OF SHADOWS.
- Jane Harper, who wrote THE SURVIVORS, FORCE OF NATURE, THE DRY and THE LOST MAN. Harper’s novel often include characters from earlier books, but are never exactly a series.
So many choices! 🙀