What We’re Reading in January
Regular people celebrate Fridays, but readers celebrate Tuesdays because that’s when books release. And even though nothing seems to happen in the Bleak Midwinter, books are still dropping—and it’s a good thing, since the best thing to do during this season is hole up and read. When you get to the bottom of your TBR pile, or need to refresh it as so many of us do in the new year, think of these books of crime fiction, true crime, thriller, and mystery that we’re looking forward to reading this January.
Katrina Kim observes her co-worker out of obsession, but she doesn’t think she’s a stalker. When he writes her a message implying he knows that she watches him, Katrina follows another of her compulsions and drives to Cayatoga Bridge. She arrives in time to witness Kurt jump off to his death. That is, after he tells her that his death is all her fault. Katrina tries to understand what just happened, and she learns that while she thought she was watching Kurt, he was watching her, too.
In a fun combination of Greek mythology and tomb raiding, Eve and Riley search for and find the mummy of the infamous Helen of Troy. The women plan to use their special skills to recreate the face that launched a thousand ships. That is if the tomb raiders don’t kill them first.
In this new twist on LA Noir, publicist Mae Pruett investigates the shooting of her boss. She falls down a rabbit hole of influencers, old money, crooked police, and midnight-wrecking crews in the process.
Best frenemies since elementary school, Emily and Chess reunite in their hometown of Asheville, North Carolina and talk about their respective writing projects. When successful, new-agey Chess learns that Emily’s cozy mystery bookwriting has been blocked up since her illness started, she invites her to a selfmade writers’ retreat in Italy. The catch is, the villa is a “murder house,” and its curse might not be completely finished with its renters. I’ll be honest: I received a review copy of this audiobook in exchange for a review, and I listened to the whole book in a day and a half. It’s a page-turner, for sure, and the narration is impeccable.
In this found-footage fiction equivalent, the crew of Fade to Black, a hit reality TV show, arrives at a derelict mansion to investigate supernatural events associated with bizarre experiments that happened there in the 1970s. Their search turns up more than they anticipated.
Age of Vice
Three lives intertwine among the class tiers in New Delhi: Sunny, the “playboy heir” to the much-feared Wadia family fortune; Ajay, the family’s servant who rises through the ranks; and Neda, the journalist investigating a multiple homicide case. In Delhi, a Mercedes jumps a curb and takes three lives, and though there should be a rich man behind the wheel, only a traumatized Ajay can’t explain what’s happened.
How to Sell a Haunted House
Who better to inaugurate the coronavirus pandemic’s representation in horror than the inimitable author, Grady Hendrick. We meet adult siblings Mark and Louise Joyner after their parents have just died from Covid—which was just after the economic meltdown drained both their bank accounts. Their last resort is to sell the family home they just inherited. And that house is, of course, haunted.
The Bandit Queens
Geeta didn’t kill her husband, even though everyone thinks she did. She enjoys being feared, for the most part, because people don’t bother her until her neighbors ask Geeta to help rid them of their own husbands.
Code Name Blue Wren
This true crime book tells the story of Ana Montes, a CIA agent who moonlighted as a spy for Fidel Castro’s Cuba—for seventeen years. We learn the deeply personal nature of her treason as well as how she got away with it for so long.
Using a time machine found in the previous installment of the Aloysius Pendergast series, Constance Greene returns to New York City in the 1880s to prevent the deaths of her siblings. In contemporary New York, her partner FBI Special Agent Pendergast tries to intervene on her behalf when he realizes that an infamous serial killer lurks in her direct path.
Just the Nicest Couple
Jake Hayes is missing. This much is certain. At first, his wife, Nina, thinks he is blowing off steam at a friend’s house after their heated fight the night before. But then a day goes by. Two days. Five. And Jake is still nowhere to be found.
Lily Scott, Nina’s friend and coworker, thinks she may have been the last to see Jake before he went missing. After Lily confesses everything to her husband, Christian, the two decide that nobody can find out what happened leading up to Jake’s disappearance, especially not Nina. But Nina is out there looking for her husband, and she won’t stop until the truth is discovered.
Don't Open the Door
US Marshal Regan Merritt never bought the FBI’s theory that her ten-year-old son’s murder was tied to her job. Yet as leads went cold, she’d had to walk away from the marshals, the case and her now ex-husband, Grant, who blamed her for Chase’s death.
After Regan receives a chilling voice mail from her former boss, Tommy, claiming new information about Chase’s murder, she can no longer stay away from her pain-filled past. Especially when Tommy’s murdered before she can return his call.
Now more than ever, Regan’s determined to find the truth, but the more she digs, the more evidence points to Grant as the killer’s true target. But Grant isn’t talking. As she tries to pin down her ex, Regan discovers something much bigger and far more sinister is at play—and she’s running out of people she can trust.
Robert Reid moved his family to Scotland’s Outer Hebrides in the 1990s, driven by hope, craving safety and community, and hiding a terrible secret. But despite his best efforts to fit in, Robert is always seen as an outsider. And as the legendary and violent Hebridean storms rage around him, he begins to unravel, believing his fate on the remote island of Kilmeray cannot be escaped.
For her entire life, Maggie MacKay has sensed something was wrong with her. When Maggie was five years old, she announced that a man on Kilmeray—a place she’d never visited—had been murdered. Her unfounded claim drew media attention and turned the locals against each other, creating rifts that never mended.
Nearly twenty years later, Maggie is determined to find out what really happened, and what the islanders are hiding. But when she begins to receive ominous threats, Maggie is forced to consider how much she is willing to risk to discover the horrifying truth.
What to Read Next
Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She co-hosts Everything Trying to Kill You, the comedy podcast that analyzes your favorite horror movies from the perspectives of women of color. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.