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Mystery Books Set Around the World and in the Woods

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Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

This post was originally published in our mystery/thriller newsletter, Unusual Suspects. Sign up for it here to get mystery news, reviews, deals, and more!

Hello mystery fans! This week I have for you an interesting historical fiction with eclectic characters and a YA mystery I inhaled that I think fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder will also like.

A Decline in Prophets (Rowland Sinclair #2) by Sulari Gentill

Okay, this is (so far) a ten-book historical mystery series with Rowland Sinclair, a wealthy Australian artist, as the sleuth. Of course me being me I started with the second book — I just really wanted to read a remote set murder mystery, and the beginning of the book gave me the information I needed to not be confused so win-win for me. However, I enjoyed this so much I’m going back to the first. And with that out of the way on to this book!

It’s set in the 1930s and while I find that a lot of historical mysteries kind of blend into feeling much like the same, this one really stood out for a few reasons: the unique and varied characters; the moving settings; I can’t recall reading many Australian sleuths or artists. We start on the R.M.S. Aquitania, a luxury liner filled with an eclectic mix of characters that are friends, and not, and have various different religions and beliefs — and of course someone ends up murdered. Rowland Sinclair just happened to have decked the murder victim before he turned up dead, so guess who is a suspect?!

We keep following the group of characters — Theosophists, Freemasons, Protestants, mystics, Catholic Bishop and Priest, model, artist, poet — through New York and Sydney, and we find that people keep being murdered. And not only is there drama in Sinclair’s group of friends but in his family, because his older brother is determined to make Sinclair the proper gentlemen. But who is following this group of eclectic people around the world and offing them? And why? Come for the murder mystery and stay for a fun look at the wealthy in 1930s Australia. I went with the audiobook and it was like listening to a radio play, which added to the delight of this book for me. I’d also say this works for fans of cozies in that there is plenty of murder that is explained but it never goes into the gore and details.

TW: brief attempted assault, not detailed/alludes to past assault without detail/murder made to look like suicide, detail/parent with dementia/antisemitism

I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan

I enjoyed Ryan’s previous mystery, Keep This To Yourself, so I was already looking forward to this book. Then I got to the hook and I was so very much sold. I read this in two sittings because it rang all my bells: great opening hook; awesome, loving family; strong voice from the start; a true crime podcast; a past and present missing persons mystery; one of the most intense endings I’ve read in a while.

Dee and her best friend Sibby went to play in the woods when they were 7 and only Dee returned; Sibby has never been seen or heard from since. (The book summary gives you all the deets, but the book takes time to unveil it all so you decide if you want to know beforehand or not.) Now, Dee is 17 and has never gotten over the trauma of what happened in the woods or the fact that she knows everyone in town sees her and thinks of what happened. Feeling helpless, but having zero desire to be an actual sleuth herself, she started a crime podcast where she talks about missing person cases. She then opens it up for armchair sleuths (who she calls laptop detectives) to help figure out the mystery, and then she passes along any relevant information to the police.

Her podcast has become huge but no one, except her best and only friend, knows she hosts it, as she’s kept herself anonymous all this time. She’s also never discussed her case nor plans to. Then a girl goes missing, from the same block, and how can they not be related? Especially when someone she knows is arrested…

I really liked Dee, who is reserved and a loner due to the past trauma but has a lovely family relationship, a best friend, and a new girl neighbor she falls for. This ended up being a satisfying mystery that looked at how hard it is to move on from something when there aren’t any answers, and how easy it is to only see the damage something does to you.