Virtual Mystery/Thriller Book Club - Chris Whitaker's "We Begin at the End"
This month we're taking on a thriller (which I highly recommend) -- Chris Whitaker's We Begin at the End.
If you want to join this virtual book club, understand that we will alternate between cozy (or not-so-cozy...but never ruthlessly violent) mysteries and thrillers. We started with a mystery (Louise Penny's first in the Inspector Gamache series--Still Life), so this month is a thriller and then in January there'll be another mystery (Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge). Actually, there will be two for those of you willing to read Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library, as Murder at Mallowan Hall has several Easter eggs in it in reference to the Christie classic.
And best of all, the author, Colleen Cambridge, will be joining us as we talk about her book! (In fact, the first three selections for 2023 all feature the author making a virtual guest appearance.)
If you want to get a head start on the reading, scroll down to order your copies now.
REGISTER HERE TO JOIN THE CLUB
And here is our 2022 list (plus alternates that may be considered for 2023):
BOOK BUNGALOW 2022 MYSTERY/THRILLER LIST
JANUARY (Mystery) - “Murder at Mallowan Hall” by Colleen Cambridge (10/26/2021) 272 pages; $26.00 - Mallowan Hall combines the best of English tradition with the modern conveniences of 1930. Housekeeper Phyllida Bright manages the large household with an iron fist in her very elegant glove. In one respect, however, Mallowan Hall stands far apart from other picturesque country houses... The manor is home to archaeologist Max Mallowan and his famous wife, Agatha Christie. An aficionado of detective fiction, Phyllida has yet to find a gentleman in real life half as fascinating as Mrs. Agatha's Belgian hero, Hercule Poirot. But though accustomed to murder and its methods as frequent topics of conversation, Phyllida is unprepared for the sight of a very real, very dead body on the library floor. Paired with Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library for those who want to hunt for the connections. (Author will take part.)
FEBRUARY (Thriller) - *“What Beauty There Is” by Cory Anderson (4/6/2021) 368 pages; $18.99 – Winter in Idaho. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones. Living in harsh poverty, Jack Dahl and his younger brother have nothing--except each other. With his father incarcerated and his mother addicted to opioids, Jack faces a stark choice: lose his brother to foster care or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money. Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years Ava's father, an abusive and merciless man, has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up on Jack's trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or speak, and help the brothers survive. (Author will take part.)
MARCH (Mystery) - “The Violin Conspiracy” by Brendan Slocumb (2/21/2022) 352 pages; $28.00 - Ray McMillian loves playing the violin more than anything, but when he makes the startling discovery that his great-grandfather's fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, his star begins to rise. Then with the international Tchaikovsky Competition-the Olympics of classical music-fast approaching, his prized family heirloom is stolen. Ray is determined to get it back. But now his family and the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray's great-grandfather are each claiming that the violin belongs to them. With the odds stacked against him and the pressure mounting, will Ray ever see his beloved violin again? (Author can take part)
APRIL (Thriller) - “The Apollo Murders” by Chris Hadfield (10/12/2021) 480 pages; $28.00 - 1973: a final, top-secret mission to the Moon. Three astronauts in a tiny spaceship, a quarter million miles from home. A quarter million miles from help. NASA is about to launch Apollo 18. While the mission has been billed as a scientific one, flight controller Kazimieras "Kaz" Zemeckis knows there is a darker objective. Intelligence has discovered a secret Soviet space station spying on America, and Apollo 18 may be the only chance to stop it. But even as Kaz races to keep the NASA crew one step ahead of their Russian rivals, a deadly accident reveals that not everyone involved is quite who they were thought to be.
MAY (Mystery) - “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore” by Matthew Sullivan (1/9/2018) 352 pages; $18.00 – Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs--the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store's overwhelmed shelves. But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore's upper room, Lydia's life comes unglued. Always Joey's favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: trinkets and books--the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable.
JUNE (Thriller) - “Canyonlands Carnage” by Scott Graham (9/12/2021) 220 pages; $16.95 - When suspicious deaths befall a whitewater rafting expedition through Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, archaeologist Chuck Bender and his family recognize evil intent lies behind the tragedies. They must risk their lives and act before the murderer makes an already deadly journey on the Colorado River through Utah's red rock wilderness even deadlier--or turns on them instead. [Mystery/Thriller] (Author can take part)
JULY (Mystery) - “Plaid and Plagiarism: The Highland Bookshop Mystery Series, Book 1” by Molly MacRae (1/2/2018) 288 pages; $15.95 – Four women take possession of their new bookshop, Yon Bonnie Books, in Inversgail, Scotland in the weeks before the Inversgail Literature Festival only to find the body of Una Graham, an advice columnist for the local paper. After discovering a cache of nasty letters, the four women set out to solve Una's murder.
AUGUST (Mystery) - “Devil in a Blue Dress” by Walter Mosley (10/6/2020) 240 pages; $17.00 – The year is 1948, the town is Los Angeles. Easy Rawlins, a black war veteran, has just been fired from his job at a defense factory plant. Drinking in his friend's bar, he's wondering how he'll manage to make ends meet, when a white man in a linen suit approaches him and offers him good money if Easy will simply locate Miss Daphne Money, a missing blonde beauty known to frequent black jazz clubs.
SEPTEMBER (Thriller) - *“Imaginary Friend” by Stephen Chbosky (10/6/2020) 736 pages; $16.99 – Single mother Kate Reese is on the run. Determined to improve life for her and her son, Christopher, she flees an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with her child. Together, they find themselves drawn to the tight-knit community of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. It's as far off the beaten track as they can get. Just one highway in, one highway out. At first, it seems like the perfect place to finally settle down. Then Christopher vanishes. For six long days, no one can find him. Until Christopher emerges from the woods at the edge of town, unharmed but not unchanged. He returns with a voice in his head only he can hear, with a mission only he can complete: Build a treehouse in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again.
OCTOBER (Mystery) - “The Current” by Tim Johnston (11/5/2019) 432 pages; $16.95 – When two women leave their college in the dead of winter for a 700-mile drive to Minnesota, they find themselves fighting for their lives in the icy waters of the Black Root River. One girl's survival, and the other's murder stun the citizens of a small Minnesota town, thawing memories of another woman who lost her life in the same river, and whose killer may yet live among them.
NOVEMBER (Thriller) - “State of Terror” by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny (10/12/2021) 512 pages; $30.00 – Ellen Adams, a novice Secretary of State, has joined the administration of her rival, a president inaugurated after four years of American leadership that shrank from the world stage. A series of terrorist attacks throws the global order into disarray and the secretary is tasked with assembling a team to unravel the deadly conspiracy, a scheme carefully designed to take advantage of an American government dangerously out of touch and out of power in the places where it counts the most. (Note: This will be out in paperback by June, but there's no cover yet, so don't order the hardcover unless you want it in that form.)
DECEMBER (Mystery) - “The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman (8/3/2021) 384 pages; $17.00 – In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the friends suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. They might be senior citizens, but they are cleverer than most. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it's too late?
Alternates to consider for 2023
“Dead Angler” by Victoria Houston (5/30/2014) 272 pages; $13.99 - Retired dentist Paul Osborne hasn't fly-fished since his wife died. He hasn't had a woman tell him what to do since then either. But in the company of Lewellyn Ferris, he's relearning both. And when he and his lady instructor find a well-dressed body floating in the moonlight, Paul adds deputy to his list of experiences. [Mystery]
*“Lightning Strike” by William Kent Krueger (8/24/2021) 400 pages; $27.00 – When twelve-year-old Cork O'Connor stumbles upon a body hanging from a tree, it is up to his father, the town sheriff, to find answers. But meanwhile, a determined Cork begins to look for answers on his own. [Mystery/Thriller]
“The Nameless Ones” by John Connolly (10/26/2021) 432 pages; $28.00 – In Amsterdam, four bodies, violently butchered, are discovered in a canal house, the remains of friends and confidantes of the assassin known only as Louis. The men responsible for the murders are Serbian war criminals. They believe they can escape retribution by retreating to their homeland. They are wrong. For Louis has come to Europe to hunt them down: five killers to be found and punished before they can vanish into thin air. There is just one problem. The sixth. [Thriller]
“Claws for Alarm” by Rita Mae Brown (10/12/2021) 288 pages; $28.00 – Pharamond 'Fair' Haristeen is known throughout Crozet, Virginia, as a good horse vet and a better man. So, when Benjamin Wagner, a new vet in town, is found dead in his unopened clinic, local police turn to Fair for help getting to the bottom of things. Fair quickly realizes Ben's clinic has been robbed of ketamine, used by doctors as a horse tranquilizer but also a popular recreational drug. Then Fair's own ketamine goes missing from the back of his truck. Was Ben killed for his supply? Or was he mixed up in something bigger? [Mystery]
“Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz (3/27/2018) 512 pages; $17.00 – A reimagining of the classic whodunit (a la Agatha Christie) with a contemporary mystery wrapped around it . . . Editor Susan Ryeland has worked with bestselling crime writer Alan Conway for years, so she has no reason to think his latest novel will be much different from his others. But Conway's latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects; but hidden in the pages of the manuscript lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder. [Mystery]
“Anthem” by Noah Hawley (1/4/2022) 448 pages; $29.00 - Something is happening to teenagers across America, spreading through memes only they can parse. At the Float Anxiety Abatement Center, in a suburb of Chicago, Simon Oliver is trying to recover from his sister's tragic passing. He breaks out to join a woman named Louise and a man called The Prophet on a quest as urgent as it is enigmatic. Who lies at the end of the road? A man known as The Wizard, whose past encounter with Louise sparked her own collapse. Their quest becomes a rescue mission when they join up with a man whose sister is being held captive by the Wizard, impregnated and imprisoned in a tower. [Thriller]
*Indicates that I have read the book and highly recommend it.