First Clue

By Henrietta Verma & Brian Kenney

The mission of First Clue is simple: to provide succinct reviews of crime fiction we love—or at least like a lot—far in advance of publication. Our intent is for First Clue to help librarians and booksellers in selecting titles and making recommendations, and readers in finding that next great r... Read more

The mission of First Clue is simple: to provide succinct reviews of crime fiction we love—or at least like a lot—far in advance of publication. Our intent is for First Clue to help librarians and booksellers in selecting titles and making recommendations, and readers in finding that next great read. Who are we? Two New York City-based librarians and former editors at leading review magazines—Library Journal and School Library Journal. We hope you'll subscribe—it’s free!—and after that, watch your email box every Thursday for our recommendations.

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First Clue - The Bequest by Joanna Margaret, There are No Happy Loves by Sergio Olguin, Self-Portrait with Nothing by Aimee Pokwatka, A Death in Door County by Annelise Ryan

Margaret, Joanna. The Bequest. October. 312p. Scarlet Press.Isabel Henley leaves Boston for the remote coastal Scotland college of St. Stephens, ready to immerse herself in a feminist perspective of Catherine de Medici’s court. She’s chosen St. Stephens so sh…


First Clue - The Mad, Mad Murders of Marigold Way by Raymond Benson, How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie, Race by SLMN, Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson

⭐Benson, Raymond. The Mad, Mad Murders of Marigold Way. October. 350p. Beaufort Books.Benson is best known as the first American author of continuation James Bond novels, but apart from being fictional and starring a man, this unusual and excellent read is th…


First Clue - Marple by Agatha Christie, That Summer in Berlin by Lecia Cornwall, Blackwater Falls by Ausma Zehanat Khan, City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita

Christie, Agatha. Marple: Twelve New Mysteries. September. 304pp. William Morrow.A dozen terrifically talented and diverse authors—including Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Val McDermid, and Dreda Say Mitchell—reimagine that most iconic of amateur sleuths: Miss Jane…


First Clue - Augusta Hawke by G.M. Malliet, A Dreadful Splendor by B.R. Myers, The Nurse's Secret by Amanda Skenandore, Such a Good Mother by Helen Monks Takhar

⭐ Malliet, G. M. Augusta Hawke (Book 1). July. 240p. Severn House. Best known for her cozy British series, here Malliet abandons the country vicarages and Oxbridge colleges for Old Town Alexandria, Virginia directly across the Potomac from the District of Col…


First Clue - The Wheel of Doll by Jonathan Ames, Death and the Decorator by Simon Brett, The Collector by Anne Mette Hancock, The Perfect Crime by Vaseem Khan and Maxim Jakubowski, and Bad Fruit by Ella King

Ames, Jonathan. The Wheel of Doll. (Happy Doll #2). September. 224p. Mulholland Books.This is turning out to be one of the most unique, captivating, and above all emotionally engaging crime fiction series being published. Happy Doll—yes, that’s his real name—…


First Clue - Someone Had to Do It by Amber Brown and Danielle Brown, The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict, The Other Side of Night by Adam Hamdy, Abiding Conviction by Stephen M. Murphy

Benedict, Alexandra. The Christmas Murder Game. October. 368p. Poisoned Pen Press.The backbiting Armitage family has a Christmas tradition at their country mansion, Endgame House: the matriarch of the family creates cryptic riddles for them to solve. Lily was…


First Clue - Light on Bone by Kathryn Lasky, Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen, Knock Off the Hat by Richard Stevenson, Bottled Lightning by L.M. Weeks

Lasky, Kathryn. Light on Bone (A Georgia O'Keeffe Mystery). September. 298p. Woodhall Press.In real life, artist Georgia O’Keeffe began in 1929 to spend part of each year at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiú, New Mexico, and eventually moved there. When we join her at t…


First Clue - The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray, Death on a Winter Stroll by Francine Mathews, Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn, A Beginner's Guide to Murder by Rosalind Stopps, Bombay Monsoon by James W. Ziskin

Gray, Claudia. The Murder of Mr. Wickham. May. 400p. Vintage.A wonderfully successful mashup of character (the leading personalities from across Jane Austen’s six novels) and plot (a locked-room mystery of the sort best utilized by Agatha Christie). The Knigh…


First Clue - The Body Falls by Andrea Carter, Complicit by Winnie M. Li, All the Dark Places by Terri Parlato, We Spread by Iain Reid

Carter, Andrea. The Body Falls (Inishowen Mysteries #5). November. 352p. Oceanview.Lovers of classic mysteries will be familiar with the locked-room trope, in which a finite set of characters is stuck in one place with a murderer in their midst, à la Murder o…


First Clue - Two Parts Sugar by Valerie Burns, The Shadow Lily by Johanna Mo, The Guest House by Robin Morgan-Bentley, An Honest Living by Dwyer Murphy

Burns, Valerie. Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder (A Baker Street Mystery). August. 336p. Kensington.Maddy Montgomery is in need of a major reset. Spoiled rotten—Daddy’s an admiral—the recent Stanford grad and social-media-marketing maven loves her Laboutins a…


First Clue - 2022 Mystery and Thriller Preview, The Disinvited Guest by Carol Goodman, The Resemblance by Lauren Nossett, Good Husbands by Cate Ray, Kalmann by Joachim B. Schmidt

Goodman, Carol. The Disinvited Guest. July. 336p. William Morrow.Wondering where all the pandemic fiction is? Well here’s the antidote. It’s ten years since the end of the pandemic, when it looks like another one, but even worse, is on its way. Married couple…


First Clue - Interview with Jane Pek, A Killing in Costumes by Zac Bissonnette, The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark, Hokuloa Road by Elizabeth Hand, Wild Prey by Brian Klingborg

Bissonnette, Zac. A Killing in Costumes (A Hollywood Treasure Mystery #1). August. 320p. Crooked Lane.Jay and Cindy have quite a history. Back in the ‘90s they were husband and wife, soap-opera stars, and a successful musical duo. Then Cindy came out as gay, …


First Clue - Death by Bubble Tea by Jennifer J. Chow, No Strangers Here by Carlene O'Connor, Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor, The Dinner Guest by B.P. Walter, The Second Husband by Kate White

Chow, Jennifer J. Death by Bubble Tea (LA Night Market #1). 304p. July. Berkley. A delicious exploration into family, culture, and above all, food. We meet early twenties Yale Yee as she is let go from her job in a bookstore—no business—and is thinking of ret…


First Clue - Reputation by Sarah Vaughan, Cougar Claw by Cary J. Griffith, Outside by Ragnar Jónasson, Vera Kelly: Lost and Found by Rosalie Knecht, Six Feet Deep Dish by Mindy Quigley, Interview with Rob Osler

Griffith, Cary J. Cougar Claw (A Sam Rivers Mystery, #2). June. 432p. Adventure Publications.This is one of those thrillers that opens with a full view of the crime—in this case, two men ambushing a Savage, Minnesota CEO and attacking him with real cougar cla…


First Clue - New from Ruth Ware

Hillier, Jennifer. Things We Do in the Dark. July. 352p. Minotaur.After marrying Jimmy Peralta, an old-time comedian who’s making a comeback, much younger yoga-studio owner Paris is content to live in her husband’s shadow. Then his assistant sends out a press…


First Clue - Interview with Robyn Gigl

Cameron, Julie. Nameless Acts of Cruelty. August. 312p. Penzler Publishers.Returning from vacation to London with his family, Jeremy, or Jez, Horton sees from the plane a figure running in a field. Without knowing why, he’s suddenly in the grip of a panic att…


First Clue - Quicksand and Lost Children

Alterman, Liz. The Perfect Neighborhood. July. 288p. Crooked Lane.On the surface, Oak Hill, New Jersey, is, yes, a perfect neighborhood. Perfect lawns, perfect homes, perfect families. A crack appears when we see local high-schooler Cassidy on a clandestine o…


First Clue - The Self-Made Widow

Day, Elizabeth. Magpie. May. 336p. Simon & Schuster.When London couple Marisa and Jake rent their spare room to Kate, the three get along fine at first, even if things are a little awkward. The extra money is certainly helpful when Marisa becomes pregnant…


First Clue - Sara Paretsky's Latest

Breier, Davida. Sinkhole. May. 240p. University of New Orleans Press.Michelle Miller finally got herself out of Lorida, Florida on a swimming scholarship and never looked back. Now, 15 years later, she’s returning to see her dying mother, and, unavoidably, co…


First Clue - Alice Feeney

Duncan, Emmeline. Double Shot Death. April 2022. 288p. Kensington.Coffeehouses are a staple of cozy mysteries, but this follow up to Fresh Brewed Murder takes place around a coffee-cart business. It belongs to Sage Caplin, barista extraordinaire, who’s booked…