To celebrate the end of 2018, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite books in the art mystery, historical fiction and thriller genre – all strong in setting. A few are recent reads and others are old favorites. If you’re looking for gift ideas, this list might be a good place to start!
- The Art Forger by BA Shapiro. A brilliantly conceived and executed art history mystery. As a mystery fan, I was entertained and captivated by the twists and turns. As a trained art historian, it was wonderful to get lost in the art-infused story lines about modern masters and their patrons. Highly recommended for mystery readers, especially those interested in art crimes and history.
- Return of the Courtesan by Victoria Blake. Her lush, evocative descriptions of Venice in the 16th century and present-day London transported me back to both cities. Her eye for detail brings the characters, settings and story to life. It’s one of my favorite books. [Her crime fiction novel, Jumping the Cracks, also deserves a special mention. It is the first mystery I read that effectively combined anthropology, the museum world and crime fiction.]
- The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. Excellent dual timeline novel about the Romanov’s last days. It’s not really a mystery, but the author does keep you in suspense as several important storylines converge at the end of the novel.
- The Master by Dora Ilieva. This archeological mystery is well-crafted and intriguing, as are the author’s descriptions of Bulgaria, a country I’ve yet to visit but now want to.
- Fast Track to Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel. This extremely well-executed action thriller is set in around the world. I am in awe of his pacing and plotting.
- The Expats by Chris Pavone. Sophisticated mystery and wild goose chase through Europe. I really connected with the amateur sleuth driving the story.
- The Art Whisperer by Charlotte and Aaron Elkins. This is the third book in an enjoyable series of four following a freelance art restorer who has a knack for getting into art-related trouble.
- The Ghost by Robert Harris. This is one of the most impressive stories I have ever read. Every word matters and his pacing is incredible. This is a true page-turner that kept me guessing until the very last sentence.
- The Beach by Alex Garland. This classic is the reason I began writing. Not that I thought I could do better, or anything like that! It was the first fiction story I had read that combined crime, mystery, young adult angst, backpacking, wanderlust and adventure so seamlessly.
- Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel. Engaging cozy mystery series set in Sri Lanka. Perfect for readers who love vintage-style mysteries.
- Casket Cache by Janice J. Richardson. In this cozy mystery series – set in a funeral home – the characters are driven by their compassion for their fellow man, as well as the recently-deceased they attend to. I highly recommend this series to fans of mysteries, amateur sleuths, and cozies.
- Bridge of Sighs and Dreams by Pamela Allegretto. A captivating World War Two historical fiction novel set in Italy. The characters and story line will quickly draw you in.
And as a bonus, here is a non-fiction favorite: Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman. A journalist and explorer recounts his fascinating journey to Papua New Guinea, where he retraces the last art-collecting expedition made by anthropologist Michael Rockefeller. He effortlessly combines mystery, adventure, personal self-discovery and colonial history into one captivating novel.
Happy reading and holidays!