Hello Lovely Readers!
A couple weeks ago I outlined my fall reading goals, and in that post I mentioned that I enjoy reading books, across genres, that fit within a seasonal theme. I am always on the lookout for seasonal reads, or for books that feel like a particular season to me. I am hoping to share my favourite seasonal reads here regularly, beginning this week with mystery.
Mystery is one of my favourite genres to read in year round and I am always on the lookout for seasonal mysteries. I especially love mysteries that have a deeply developed setting and that are heavy with atmosphere. Of course, when I started putting this list together, I was promptly struck with an inability to come up with the types of books I wanted to include… I really need to start a few running lists of this type so that I am better prepared next season.
Before we get to the list, I wanted to make a note about the word “atmospheric.” According to the dear dictionary, atmospheric means “creating a distinctive mood, typically of romance, mystery or nostalgia.” In this sense, saying that a book is atmospheric means very little outside of context. Despite this, it has become a frequently used description word, particularly for describing “fall” books. So, for the purposes of this list, atmospheric means invoking a sense or feeling of fall and all that encompasses. In many ways this list is completely subjective, but I hope you find something that will work for your definition of atmospheric.
1. The Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson
This YA mystery/thriller trilogy is the perfect read for this time of year. This series is set in a remote, exclusive and prestigious (as well as quirky) boarding school. In addition to being an unconventional school, the estate has a mysterious history with the death of the founders wife, and the disappearance of his young daughter. The history of the estate soon collides with the present – becoming sinister after the suspicious death of a student. This series combines a true crime style mystery with traditional mystery/thriller aspects, along with humour and quirky characters to make for a delightful, suspense filled, sometimes scary read. As a note, this trilogy may be getting a fourth book in 2021, but I think it will be a companion novel, so you can easily read this trilogy now and feel like it is complete.
2. The Stalking Jack the Ripper Series by Kerri Maniscalco
I won’t go into too much detail about this series today, because I’ve mentioned it here before. If you’re interested in my series wrap up, you can find that here. This is a four book YA thriller/mystery/historical fiction series that has excellent fall atmospheric vibes. Each book is based around a different setting, though we follow the same characters throughout. The main character does get on my nerves on occasion, but I really enjoyed this series – so much so that I am considering starting a re-read – if not this year, then next year. If you enjoy mystery/thrillers with a historical twist, then I would highly recommend this series.
3. The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher
If you’ve been around awhile, you’ll know that I have been working my way through this series over the past year. I’ve been listening to the audiobooks and I’ve averaged about 1 book a month. From looking at the reviews, I know that people have very mixed opinions on this series. I am in the camp of those that enjoy it, at least so far. This series combines mystery and fantasy elements. If it were a television series, I would say that it mixes recurring storylines with “monster of the week” stories. The series is set in Chicago and I find that the combination of supernatural/paranormal elements gives the series a bit of a darker, more atmospheric feel. There’s magic, and vampires and werewolves (oh my!) and a good dash of humour. Overall this series is a whole lot of fun!
4. Phantom Evil by Heather Graham
I have only recently discovered Heather Graham, and I think this is the first one I’ve read. Because of that, The verdict is still out as to what I think of her as an author, and what I think of her books in general. But I did enjoy this first one I picked up. I enjoyed how Graham combines a typical “FBI” special investigation type premise with supernatural elements. The supernatural elements aren’t as prevalent or apparent as they are in the Dresden files, but the balance is effective. Throughout the book, you’re often stuck between trying to decide if there’s something supernatural at work or if there’s a rational explanation – right along with the characters. This book definitely has atmospheric vibes, and I look forward to picking up more in this series.
5. Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
This is an Agatha Christie that I have not yet read, nor had I heard of it before I stumbled across it on a list of fall mysteries. I am looking forward to picking this one up, and may read it as the Christie book I pick to fill my Fall reading goal. In this book, Poirot and Ariadne Oliver (who I am not familiar with), work to solve the murder of a young girl found drowned in an apple-bobbing tub after a Halloween party. This sounds pretty much perfect for this time of year.
6. The Spook in the Stacks by Eva Gates
As you can see, the cover for this book has pumpkins and a cat reading “Sleepy Hallow”… if that doesn’t scream fall vibes, I don’t know what does. This one just became available off my library hold list, so I will hopefully pick it up shortly. This is book 4 in the Lighthouse Library mystery series, but I think like many cozies, it will be fine to read as a standalone. The cover description mentioned the possibility that the library might be haunted… and whether it is or isn’t in the end, that is a premise that I am fully on-board with.
7. Death Overdue by Allison Brook (Marilyn Levinson)
This is the first book in the Haunted Library Mysteries series and, unlike the previous entry, this one I have read. I remember enjoying this one, though I don’t remember too much about it. In this one, the library is haunted, but in a good way. Our main character works with a friendly library ghost to solve a recent murder with historical importance.
8. The Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to put my finger on a selection from this series that is set in Autumn, but I am certain there must be one. In any case, Penny’s beautiful setting descriptions ensure that each and every book (at least those I’ve read so far) are suitably atmospheric. They just may or may not be “fall” atmospheric. If you can think of one that is set in the fall, let me know in the comments! Personally, I am hoping to pick up the most recent entry in this series – “All the Devil’s are Here,” this fall.
9. The Paranormal Investigation Bureau series by Dionne Lister
This series is not strictly “fall” themed, and of the ones I’ve read so far, I can’t even remember if any of them are specifically set in the fall, but I think they still have a place on this list due to the theme. As I’m sure you can tell from the series title, this is a cozy mystery series with a paranormal twist. I would say that the paranormal portion is more on the “light” side, so if you’re not sure you’ll like the paranormal/fantasy element, but want to give it a shot, this might be a good gateway series.
10. The Lucy Stone series seasonal offerings by Leslie Meiers
As I’ve mentioned in a couple of my more recent posts, I’m still not completely convinced that I enjoy the Lucy Stone series. Of the ones I’ve read, I’ve had about a 50% success rate. I think the trend seems to be that I enjoy the later books more than the earlier ones. What I can say, though, is Meiers is great if you are looking for seasonally themed mysteries. She has written quite a number of them. So far, I’ve read Trick or Treat Murder and Wicked Witch Murder this year, and I am also hoping to pick up Candy Corn Murder this fall.
I know that this list doesn’t come close to all of the great seasonal or atmospheric mysteries out there, and I am always on the lookout for more. What is your favourite seasonal read? Have you read any good ones yet this year? Let me know in the comments!
Until Next Time,