Classic Rock Bottom


By Jay Roberts

Here we are at the start of 2023 and I'm finally able to write up my thoughts on my year in books for 2022. The delay for putting up my article long after most others have offered their opinions is because I'm trying to cram in as much reading as I can. Of course, there's never enough time to read everything so inevitably I miss out of stuff that I really wanted to read.

Sadly, that's the way things go at times. And 2022 was particularly challenging for me. After reading 100 plus books in 2021, my reading fell WAY off for some reason. I managed just 70 books and not everything was from the mystery and thriller genres. Since I had to deal with a health issue, that cut into my reading time. While I did manage to reach my Reading Challenge goal over on, I hope this year finds me spending more time with my books and writing reviews for them as well.

Speaking of reviews, the biggest piece of bad news for me came when Mystery Scene magazine announced they were ceasing publication. I got to write reviews for them for a little over six years and it was the best darn "job" one could hope to have. I got introduced to a bunch of new authors and started attending a lot of book signings where I got to meet those writers who thrilled me with their stories. I am definitely going to miss being a "paid professional writer" for Kate, Brian and "my editor" Teri Duerr.

In news a little closer to home, the SouthCoast Booklovers Club appears to have ended as well. Lauren Daley, the creator and freelance writer who did the year end articles featuring people sending in their lists of books read each year, emailed me to let me know the local newspaper had ended the articles over a lack of budget. I had been part of the regular contributors to those wrap up article for years. It's sad to see it go.

But there was some good news this year as well. The Wareham Free Library let the Mystery Book Club begin holding monthly meetings again. Since the previous library director had moved on to another position, the club is now run by my friend Nancy with some assistance from me. We've had only three meetings at the time of this writing but things are going well and we've had some great discussions about books by Rhys Bowen (Her Royal Spyness), Donald Bain / Jon Land (Murder She Wrote: A Date With Murder) and Jane Harper (The Dry).

I continue to be a fan of the Jungle Red Writers and Wicked Authors mystery blogs as well as Kristopher Zgorski's Bolo Books site too.

I was finally able to attend an official book signing for the first time in a couple of years too! Author Jon Land had a new book out, co-written by Heather Graham, in The Rising series. This one is called Blood Moon and in early December he was doing a signing at a bookstore in Rhode Island. I drove up and spent some time getting books signed and talking to him about a variety of topics.

When I say "official" signings, I mean an actual scheduled event in a store or library. But that's not the only author I got to hang out with this past year. In fact, I got to have lunch with Edith Maxwell (aka Maddie Day) twice in 2022. The first time was in May, when I met her at Titcomb's Bookshop in East Sandwich, MA and we went to lunch. As with each time I've met and/or shared a meal with Edith, it was great. Plus I got a bunch of stuff signed, which is always a plus.

But the second time came in August and that was even more special. My friend Ann had arranged for us to go up to where Edith lives and have a meal with her. I had gotten Ann into reading Edith's Country Store Mysteries and this was the first time they were able to meet. The place we ate at is called The Flatbread Company and it had a pizza called "Jay's Heart", so I just had to try that. I was happy to discover it was quite tasty.

I also got the chance to beta read an upcoming novel and offer my feedback on it. I don't know how much what I had to say might help but it's always nice to be asked to be in on the very ground floor in the creation of a new mystery novel.

Finally, I had pull quotes from reviews I wrote for Mystery Scene used on the back of a couple of hardcover editions for two novels this year. I know I'm supposed to "act like you've been there before" but I always find this such a cool thing to see. The books in question were Robyn Gigl's Survivor's Guilt and James Grippando's Code 6.

Well, that's enough about my year in books I think. Let's get on to the lists, shall we? Yes, I said LISTS. Because this year I decided to split my list into two. See, I read a lot of cozy mysteries. Maybe not as much as Dru Ann Love from Dru's Book Musings, but I read my fair share. But when it comes time for the year end lists, the cozies always seem to get overlooked. I tend to have one or two on my list but I'm just as guilty of overlooking the genre at times as anyone else.

Well not this year. I'm going with a Favorite Cozies list alongside my Favorite Thrillers for 2022. Please note: If a book you liked isn't on my list, either I didn't read it or I simply liked the books on my list just a bit more.


With my cozy list, I found that I had a mix of established series and new ones that debuted in 2022. But regardless of how long the series has been around, these books were simply marvelous reads and I can't wait to read more stories from each author.

#10 - CLAUSE OF DEATH by Lorna Barrett (My Goodreads Review) - This is the 16th book in the series, yet there's no letdown in terms of quality or how Barrett builds both the murder plot and giving the characters their own individual time to grow and expand. Not only do I love how things go with "village jinx" Tricia Miles, but the circumstances all of the characters face in the book draw you in like you are going through things with them. When each book is announced, I immediately put it on my To Be Read list.

#9 - DEATH IN A BLACKOUT by Jessica Ellicott (My Goodreads Review) - The first book in the new Billie Harkness series, Death In A Blackout is set in England during World War II. Harkness has a father who's a POW, a brother fighting the war and a mother who is ultra-strict and determined to not let Billie do her part for the war effort. As the plot advances, Billie ends up in Hull at a time when the city was a big target for the Germans. After an attack turns up a dead woman, Billie ends up trying to discover the truth of the victim's death. I seem to read a lot of mysteries set in World War II but this one was pretty darn good. I liked Billie right off and the story hit all the right notes for me that when I hit the final page, I wanted to read her next adventure immediately.

#8 - SIX FEET DEEP DISH by Mindy Quiqley - (My Goodreads Review) - A mystery series set in a pizza place? How could I not love this book. Okay, it isn't the type of pizza I would normally want to eat but still, PIZZA! Set in small town Wisconsin, the book features Delilah O'Leary a chef about to open her new gourmet pizza shop. But a fight with a boyfriend and the discover of a dead body put a damper on the grand opening party and leaves her to dig into the truth of the murder. Quiqley not only creates a great Type A character in Delilah but surrounds her with a fantastic supporting cast. In fact, there's a line of dialogue right on Page 1 that made me say to myself, "Oh man, I love her already". Add in a darn good mystery and I'm all in on this new series!

#7 - CHEDDAR OFF DEAD by Korina Moss - (My Goodreads Review) - This is another brand new series but when you have a great story and combine it with cheese as the main hook, my mouth waters for a tasty little case of murder. And Moss doesn't disappoint with Willa Bauer and the Curds & Whey cheese shop! When a critic who was threatening to write a bad review of her new business turns up dead, Willa needs to clear her name and keep the death from shutting down her business before it gets off the ground. There's plenty of character development in this book and a couple of surprises as well. And you don't have to wait long for another Willa Bauer story either because a second book, Gone For Gouda, came out in 2022. I have it but haven't yet been able to read it, but I know if it is as good as Cheddar Off Dead, I'm going to be wanting to take a trip to that shop for some tasty cheeses!

#6 - FRONT PAGE MURDER and DEATH ON A DEADLINE by Joyce St. Anthony - (My Goodreads Review #1, My Goodreads Review #2) - This series gets off to a flying start with two books in one year. And both of them turned out to be excellent. This is another series set in World War II, but instead of being on the frontlines, the homefront is the focus. With her father off being a war correspondent, Irene Ingram has been left in charge of the Progress (Pa.) Herald newspaper. This is 1942 so the notion of a woman being in charge of men gets a good number of moments to shine as Irene has to get those now working FOR her to follow her lead when they aren't used to taking orders from "the fairer sex". But that's only part of what makes both of these books so entertaining.

In Front Page Murder, the death of one of her reporters leads Irene, much to her traditional mother's chagrin, into digging into what he was working on before his death and how it leads to the big war supplier in town.

In Death on a Deadline, Irene has to find out who killed a minor actor on a tour to sell war bonds and why.

In each instance, Irene uses her journalistic instincts to track down answers and reveal clues. But she's got a best friend to help her. I also loved the juxtaposition of her being in charge of all of these men but being the young woman who still goes home and has to help her mother clean the house. It made for some intriguing reading for sure. This series has got me hooked!

#5 - LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD by Nikki Knight (My Goodreads Review) - The first book in the Vermont Radio mystery series introduces readers to Jaye Jordan, the relatively new owner of a small radio station in Simpson, Vermont. But things aren't quite going according to plan after she took off right-wing extremist programming when she bought the station. Now there are protests outside of the station.

When she gets mad and shoots one of their weapons at a snowman, she's horrified to discover that someone had stuffed the snowman with the dead body of the man whose program she dropped. As Jaye and the station are targeted in more attacks, the narrative grows ever more compelling. The story is filled with sharp dialogue and witty banter. And the threading of info about life as a station owner and DJ were fun to read. Especially for someone who thought it would be fun to be a DJ growing up. This is a solidly entertaining introduction to the series and I'm hoping for lots more stories to come. Now if Jaye and Nikki Knight will just stop taking shots at Whitesnake!

#4 - MURDER IS NO PICNIC by Amy Pershing (My Goodreads Review) - I enjoyed the first two books in Amy Pershing's Cape Cod Foodie series, but I think the author really knocked it out of the park with the deeply satisfying Murder Is No Picnic. With Samantha Barnes firmly settled in to her new life on the Cape, she's making great strides with her restaurant reviews and videos. When a local restaurant legend turns up dead the day after Samantha had filmed a video with her, the Cape Cod Foodie finds herself once again drawn into an investigation. Samantha knows something isn't right and pushes for the truth and to reveal the real cause of death. But Sam has a big picnic to plan and host for all her friends and there's relationship drama as well. Yet, none of it seems forced and watching how Sam handles everything, you can help but find her adorable. Even that silly young dog Diogi makes an intriguing character for the book!

#3 - THREE SHOTS TO THE WIND by Sherry Harris (My Goodreads Review) - After enjoying the first two books in the Chloe Jackson, Seaglass Saloon series, I was pretty much blown away by this third installment. Someone is sending gifts to Chloe, proclaiming their love for her. It's not her boyfriend Rip and soon Chloe realizes that the mysterious gift giver is her ex-fiancee. But before she can confront her old flame, he's found dead in the waters near her home. And Rip is the prime suspect. Of course, Chloe has to clear his name but as she digs into the death, she learns a lot about what her ex has been up to since the breakup and it isn't all that good. Now she has to find a killer amongst a host of suspects that all have plausible reasons for wanting the guy dead. I was so engrossed in the story that I didn't mind in the least that I didn't have a clue as to "whodunnit" until it was revealed on the page. Raise a toast to Chloe Jackson and the Seaglass Saloon, because this series is just too darn good to ignore!

#2 - DEATH BY BEACH READ by Eva Gates and A THREE BOOK PROBLEM by Vicki Delany (My Goodreads Review #1, My Goodreads Review #2) - Eva Gates being the pen name for Vicki Delany, I decided to include mention of both books here. Because both of them were EXCELLENT installments in the respective series.

With Death by Beach Read, librarian Lucy Richardson ends up being drawn into a new case when she and her fiancee Connor discover the body of a man in the middle of their new home. The house is under renovation but they have no idea how he (and the murderer) got into the house. As she digs, she discovers the unhappy history of the house and its possible ties to the new murder victim. What I loved the most is how the story flowed so smoothly that you didn't realize just how far you had read in the book. There's an interesting development or two with the supporting cast and Lucy having to deal with the return of an old adversary. This is definitely one of the best individual books in the series.

Of course, when you talk about the Sherlock Holmes Bookship series, everything begins and ends with series lead Gemma Doyle. Much like Holmes himself, she is adept with her observational skills and this leads her to yet another case when the host of a weekend Holmes conference is killed right in front of her. But with a house full of possible killers, Gemma will need to be on her toes to find the real killer. In fact, with the story almost laser focused on the main plot, there wasn't much room for the various subplots that run through the series. That didn't hurt the book though because A Three Book Problem was quite the captivating story!


#1 - BATTER OFF DEAD and MURDER IN A CAPE COTTAGE by Maddie Day (My Goodreads Review #1, My Goodreads Review #2) - At some point, I may just run out of good things to say about author Maddie Day's books. But it won't be happening this year, that's for sure. It's not just that I'm a big fan of her writing, it is that Day just keeps turning out some fantastically involving mysteries.

How much did I love Batter Off Dead, the 10th book in the Country Store series? If I was creating just one list this year, it would've been in the Top 3 and that's against some heavy duty thriller competition too! The book starts off with everyone enjoying a summer's night display of fireworks. But things take a turn for the worse, when Robbie Jordan's new father-in-law discovers that his lady friend has been stabbed to death during the fireworks show. But he can't help with might've happened because he is blind and didn't see anything, obviously. Making matters worse, the death has an eerie similarity to a death from years ago, one that ties to South Lick's own police lieutenant Buck Bird. There's a slight change in the offing as Robbie ends up digging to the case. While she's not exactly welcomed with open arms by law enforcement, she's not exactly discouraged either. And there are plenty of suspects to choose from. That's what I love best about this series, you just never know where Maddie Day is going to take Robbie or the readers next. I thought a subplot surrounding Robbie's employee Danna was going in one direction and it went off in a completely different way. In the end, there's no sign of this series slowing down or becoming bogged in narrative boredom. Day populates Robbie's world with so many inviting characters that you want to spend time with. Not to mention all that scrumptious sounding food. I want to eat at Pans 'N Pancakes so badly!

As for Murder in a Cape Cottage, the fourth book in Day's Cozy Capers Book Group series finds Mac Almeida trying to find out how an ancient skeleton was buried in the wall of her new home. As she tracks down answers, what amazed me most was how dark this tale was. Perhaps more than you would expect in most cozy series. But this was a good thing because it challenges any preconceived notions you might have for a story going into it. This is a darkly told tale of murderous jealousy and betrayal that will keep readers coming back for more!

And then comes...


For my favorite thrillers, there's a host of authors that I've had on my best of lists in any number of years. But hey, they keep turning out some fantastic stories so it should be a surprise that they once again come out on top. For the most part, I'm going to let my reviews speak for why these are my favorite books.

#10 - MOVIELAND by Lee Goldberg - (My Goodreads Review) - "Movieland is a gripping mystery/thriller that will have you quickly growing to love Eve Ronin and desiring more books in the series to appreciate!"

#9 - THE DOUBLE AGENT by William Christie - My Mystery Scene review of the book hasn't been posted online yet, but I can share what I closed that review with: "The Double Agent once more establishes William Christie as one of the premiere spy thriller authors and it will capture reader's attention in such a way that they will be breathlessly turning each page of this brilliantly constructed thriller!"

#8 - SHADOWS REEL by C.J. Box - (My Mystery Scene Review) - Simply put, Shadows Reel is another superbly crafted tale.

#7 - MYSTIC WIND by James Barretto (My Mystery Scene Review) - I think the fact that this is the only debut novel to make my list gives you a strong indication of how much I liked this book. It that's not enough, let me add this: "Mystic Wind, the first in a new series, gives legal thriller fans a new hero with a story so good and nuanced that I wished I could read it for the first time all over again."

#6 - THE INVESTIGATOR by John Sandford (My Mystery Scene Review) - Though Letty Davenport has been a supporting character fixture in the Lucas Davenport "Prey" series, this first book to feature her as the main character was simply outstanding. My library book club is probably going to choose this to read next month because I talked it up so well. And also there was this that I had to say, "The Investigator is another home run from John Sandford that will have readers begging for more Letty adventures."

#5 - THE FALCON by Isabella Maldonado (My Goodreads Review) - I love the "Warrior Girl" aka Nina Guerrera series so much and here's one reason why: "As The Falcon ends, there are more developments that could easily play into the next book in the series. But as Nina and "her" team look to bring down another evil mastermind, readers will be flipping those pages to see what Maldonado has in store for them next!"

#4 - LAST SEEN ALIVE by Joanna Schaffhausen - Despite not yet having written a review of Last Seen Alive, I can tell you that this is an absolutely stunning read. Telling a great story is a hard enough task but when it is the final book in the series and you need to wrap up as much as possible and give the series a satisfactory ending without being all "Hallmark Channel" about it, it's almost impossible. And yet author Joanna Schaffhausen does a superb job in doing just that. Ellery Hathaway comes full circle in her life when the serial killer she survived as a child comes back into her life, demanding she be brought to him in exchange for giving up information on other victims. In a cat-and-mouse game of psychological gamesmanship, Ellery has to find a way to once again survive the man who destroyed her past life and haunts her current one. 

My response to this being the last book in the series, no matter how much I loved the book (and I SO did), is that if the rock band Kiss can be on a farewell tour since 1996, then I can wait, hope and maybe scheme to see the author somehow bring back Ellery Hathaway and Reed Markham someday. This a series too damn good to let fade away without a chorus of protests!

Full disclosure: I was shocked to discover when I bought my copy of the book that due to my very vocal support of the series, Joanna Schaffhausen had thanked me in the author acknowledgements at the end of the book. You could've knocked me over with a feather honestly when I learned of it.

#3 - IN THE BLOOD by Jack Carr (My Mystery Scene Review) -  What can I say, I just love the James Reece series by Jack Carr and with this latest installment, I finally got to review it for Mystery Scene. And the book doesn't disappoint. It's got everything you could ever want in a high stakes action thriller. Basically, "From the opening tragedy that sets off the plot, straight through to its almost operatic and stunning conclusion, In the Blood will leave thriller readers picking their jaws up off the floor."

#2 - DESERT STAR by Michael Connelly - I haven't gotten to writing a full review of this, but if you are wondering if author Michael Connelly maintains that reputation for being the best crime fiction writer working today, the answer is pretty much an assured YES!

The latest book to team up Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard finds them working cold cases for the LAPD. It's a political move that got the unit started but success would guarantee the unit's existence in the long term. But as they investigate the murder of a politician's relative, the answers they are looking for maybe too close for comfort.

And there's Harry Bosch himself. His reasons for joining the unit are made clear early on. He wants to hunt down the one that got away, a murderer who killed an entire family and got away with it. Connelly's lyrical descriptions of Bosch visiting the place where the bodies were discovered are not only stunning in and of themselves but serve perhaps a greater cause as certain developments in the plot are revealed.

This is how you create great crime fiction.

Much like people who were fans of Michael Jordan's play, if I was writing this kind of book, I'd want to "Be Like Mike".

#1 - OATH OF LOYALTY by Kyle Mills - As a member of the Mitch Rapp Ambassador program, I'm lucky enough to receive an advance copy of the books a month or two before they hit store shelves. And that means I get to read, then marvel at, just how spectacular each new Mitch Rapp book turns out to be. And with Oath Of Loyalty, author Kyle Mills has once again raised the bar for thriller writers everywhere. 

No kidding, the first 100 pages of the book were enough to put it at the top of my list. And then you have the rest of the book to cement that belief. Mitch Rapp ends up cutting a deal with the current president, a megalomaniac who wants Rapp out of the way. The deal: Rapp retires to South Africa, stays in sight at all times and the President will leave him alone. What does the President get? Well, Rapp not coming to kill him for all his treachery is a pretty good start. But no sooner is the deal struck, it is broken. A hit team tries to kill Rapp, but it is really Rapp's partner and lover that they want. Someone's leaked her identity and whereabouts as a means to sidestep the deal. Rapp knows it was the president or his weasel-like aide-de-camp, but can't prove it for sure. So he does what he does best, he targets those that came after him in the first place. And the trail of destruction in his wake demonstrates that all bets (and deals) are off and Rapp will be coming for those who betrayed him.

Gawd I love this series. Kyle Mills took over from the late Vince Flynn and he's only made the series better and better. You just can't get enough of Mitch Rapp and once you are done with one book, you want the next one NOW Dammit! NOW!

Oh, and just for clarification purposes, if I'd done just one list, Oath Of Loyalty would still be my #1 book of 2022.

There you go folks! These are the books I chose for my favorite reads of 2022. Now comes the brand new start for searching out the best in crime fiction, action thrillers and cozy mysteries. I can't wait to get started!

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Just an update on this article here.

After I posted the article on my Facebook and Twitter pages, where I tagged the authors or sent them the link directly, I have heard from 16 of the 20 authors featured on the two lists. They liked, shared and retweeted the link in varying combinations. I also ended up having conversations with three of the authors and got an email from another one.

All in all, pretty cool reactions to my list.


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