5 mystery novels to curl up with this winter

This season readers can delve into new books from Benjamin Stevenson, Kat Ailes, Laura R. King, CJ Wray and Janice Hallett

As winter settles in, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a mystery novel. This season, readers can delve into new titles that feature a variety of sleuths: a hapless mystery writer; a group of very pregnant women; Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes’s partner in life and crime-solving; and more.

‘Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect,’ by Benjamin Stevenson

In this sequel to his bestseller, “Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone” author Stevenson offers another clever spoof of the mystery genre. After surviving killings involving his own family, Ernest Cunningham wrote a popular nonfiction book about it. Now he’s struggling to shift to writing fiction, and he hopes to get inspiration from an unusual literary festival — aboard a legendary Australian train, the Ghan — at which he’s one of five featured authors. Inspiration arrives violently when a noted Scottish mystery writer is murdered on board the train. Cunningham realizes he’s again been thrust into the midst of a real-life whodunit. Cunningham narrates the tale in the first person, frequently interrupting himself to address the reader directly; these authorial intrusions further boost the book’s humorous tone as Cunningham helps us keep track of how many times each suspect is mentioned, and where in the plot we might expect the next murder. (Mariner, Jan. 30)

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‘The Expectant Detectives,’ by Kat Ailes

Just a few weeks before the birth of their first child, Alice and her partner, Joe, decide to move from London to the rural “posh hippie” village of Penton in search of less frenzied life. Within days of their arrival, however, a dead man is discovered at their prenatal class just as one of the class participants suddenly goes into labor. As police investigate the death, both Alice and Joe — along with several other heavily pregnant class participants and their partners — find themselves among the prime suspects in a murder investigation. Determined to clear their names, Alice and her classmates decide to search for the real killer, undaunted by the need for frequent bathroom stops and snack breaks. In her first novel, Ailes has created a delightful mystery that both amuses and enthralls. (Minotaur)

‘The Lantern’s Dance,’ by Laurie R. King

King audaciously expanded the Sherlock Holmes canon three decades ago when she published “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice,” introducing readers to 15-year-old Mary Russell, neighbor and intellectual equal to the Great Detective. In the years since then, King has detailed over numerous books how Russell and Holmes joined forces, in marriage and sleuthing, to solve cases around the world. In their latest adventure, “The Lantern’s Dance,” the pair travels to France to try to figure out who is behind a break-in at the home of Holmes’s artist son, Damian Adler, and his family. Once the family is moved to a safer place, Holmes follows the intruder to Paris while Russell, housebound with an injured foot, looks through Adler’s family archives for clues. Deftly interlacing present and past, King offers further fascinating insights into Holmes’s family while also delivering an intriguing mystery. (Bantam, Feb. 13)

‘The Excitements,’ by CJ Wray

When sisters Josephine and Penny Williamson, both in their late 90s, are notified they will be traveling to Paris to receive the prestigious French Legion of Honor for their World War II work, they see the trip as a final chance to correct some long-ago injustices. Each sister, however, has her own hidden agenda based on long-kept secrets. Meanwhile, their devoted great-nephew, Archie, is counting on the excursion to rekindle his romantic relationship with a Paris antiques dealer. Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned in the City of Light as the sisters — and Archie — swiftly find themselves in the midst of international intrigue that threatens their lives. Wray offers a richly-detailed caper that effortlessly blends historical fiction, mystery and romance. Readers will be particularly charmed by the high jinks of the senior sisters, whose joie de vivre makes this book memorable. (William Morrow, Jan. 30)

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‘The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels,’ by Janice Hallett

Nearly two decades ago, several members of an English cult called the Alperton Angels committed suicide, after being foiled in their effort to kill a baby they believed was the Antichrist. Many questions remain about exactly what happened; police accounts are sketchy and one of the few witnesses — the teen mother of a baby — disappeared with her child. Journalist Amanda Bailey hopes to jump-start her languishing career by tracking down the mother and the now-grown child to piece together the truth about the events of that bloody night. But Bailey’s former colleague, Oliver Menzies, also is working on the story; when their bosses make a deal, the two journalists are reluctantly forced to collaborate until an explosive final showdown. Hallett masterfully tells her intricate story through emails, What’s App messages, screenplays and manuscripts designed to both entertain and deliberately confuse the reader. (Viper)

Karen MacPherson, the former children’s and teen coordinator at the Takoma Park Maryland Library, is a lifelong mystery aficionado.