All the social media sites and magazines seem to be sharing their “Best Books of 2021” lists. John Charles from The Poisoned Pen chose to share something a little different, “10 Delightful Debuts”. It’s an excellent list of suggestions for yourself or for gift giving, so don’t forget to look for the books in the Web Store. https://store.poisonedpen.com/. Thank you, John.
10 Delightful Debuts
This year instead of trying to winnow down the amazing number of terrific books that were published to just ten, I want to offer the literary debuts that dazzled me as a reader.
The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser.
After her personal and professional lives implode, Thea Mottram packs up her bags and leaves Chicago for Baldochrie, Scotland, where she has just inherited a small estate and collection of books from her late great uncle Andrew. Once there, Thea quickly finds she is warmly welcomed by everyone in the small town, except cranky bookseller Edward Maltravers. Who wouldn’t want to escape life’s stresses and strains (even if only for a few hours) by running away to a charming town in Scotland?
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun.
As a hopeless romantic, Dev Deshpande loves working as a producer on Ever After, but getting the show’s latest Prince Charming – geeky tech billionaire Charlie Winshaw – to connect emotionally with one of his Princess candidates is an uphill battle. Could it be because Charlie isn’t looking for a Princess with whom to fall in love but rather a Prince? Cochrun delivers everything readers expect in a great rom-com while at the same time giving a clever wink and nod to the insane popularity of reality dating shows like The Bachelor.
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse.
Forced to take a “vacation” by her boss, British police officer Elin Warner and her boyfriend travel to Le Sommet, a former tuberculosis sanatorium in the Swiss Alps now converted into a luxury hotel and spa, to celebrate Elin’s brother Isaac’s engagement to Laure Strehl, the assistant manager at the hotel. However, when Laure mysteriously vanishes, Elin’s police training kicks in and she begins investigating only to discover Laure is not the first women to disappear from Le Sommet. Fans of Ruth Ware’s One by One or Lucy Foley’s The Guest List will gobble up this eerie, mesmerizing tale.
All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris
Ellice Littlejohn seemingly has it all: an Ivy League law degree, a well-paying job as a corporate attorney…and a relationship with a rich, charming executive, who just happens to be her married boss Michael. But when Ellice arrives early one morning for a meeting in the executive suite and finds Michael dead with a gunshot to his head, she fears her personal relationship with him will now become common company gossip. So, Ellice retreats to her own office to wait for someone else to discover the body. However, once the police arrive, what was initially thought to be a suicide becomes a murder investigation. Reading this exemplary debut reminded me of when I first discovered John Grisham via The Firm decades ago. As with that twisty thriller, I was completely hooked on Morris’ addictively readable tale of murder and shady dealings at a high-end law firm told in Ellice’s vibrant, compelling voice.
How to Survive a Scandal by Samara Parish.
Amelia Crofton’s plans for marrying the Duke of Wildeforde come to an end when she is found in a compromising situation with Benedict Asterly. Forced to marry Benedict, Amelia, whose domestic skillset consists of knowing how to embroider a pillow and arrange flowers, now finds she has a husband who expects her to do things like cook and clean their house! Parish’s dazzling debut is a fresh take on the classic, old-school historical romance.
A Low Country Bride by Preslaya Williams.
NYC wedding dress designer Maya Jackson thinks she is just putting her career on hold temporarily when she travels to Charleston, S.C. to help her father recover from a broken hip. But once there, Maya finds she may be there longer than she expects leaving her to accept a temporary job working at a bridal shop owned by single parent Derek Sullivan. Williams effortlessly transports readers to South Carolina in this warm and wonderful debut that beautifully celebrates the culture and history of Charleston.
Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff.
It’s 1938, and the Westbury family and assorted friends have gathered at the family’s country home for the holidays. But this year’s festivities will be a bit different when one of the footmen discover the body of David Campbell-Scott, a wealthy ex-pat who has just returned home to Great Britain, dead in the snow. Moncrieff’s debut is very much an homage to those wonderful mysteries written during the Golden Age of crime fiction. Some readers may find the writing a bit too twee for their literary tastes – think Agatha Christie meets P.G. Wodehouse – but I thought Moncrieff did a brilliant job channeling her inner Edmund Crispin.
The next trio of titles are not technically “debut novels” since the authors all have YA books to their credit. But since in each of their cases these are their first adult novels, I am counting it as close enough.
The Ex-Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon.
Shay Goldstein has spent ten years working her way up the career ladder in public radio, but now the only thing everyone at the station where she works can talk about is new reporter Dominic Yun. Things go from bad to worse, however, when the podcast idea Shay pitches to her bosses about a relationship advice show hosted by exes, is picked up but with the caveat that Shay and Dominic be the hosts. For classic movie fans, think a 21st century spin on Desk Set but taking place in the world of NPR.
Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto.
Sutanto’s publisher is promoting this zany (in the best way possible) book as Crazy Rich Asians meets Weekend at Bernie’s, which is one case where their marketing is right on target. In the book wedding photographer Meddelin Chan’s blind date goes horribly wrong, and now Meddy need the help of her meddling mother and aunts to clean up afterwards. But when the body accidently ends up at a wedding party Meddy and her family are catering, things get really crazy. This fast-paced mix of mystery caper and rom-com is fresh, fun, and fabulously entertaining.
Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano.
When a stranger overhears romantic suspense novelist Finlay Donovan discussing her latest project with her editor and mistakes Finlay for a killer for hire, the woman hires Finlay to bump off her cheating husband. Of course, that’s when things get really interesting. Not since Evelyn E. Smith created genteel, lady hitman Susan Melville with her book Miss Melville Regrets has there been such a clever use of the premise of an accidental hitman as a protagonist. Writing with a deliciously acerbic sense of wit and the perfect sense for the ridiculous in life, Cosimano hits all the marks with this fun and funny series debut that is wonderfully reminiscent of Susan Isaacs at her best (think Compromising Positions).