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With thousands of books published each year and much attention paid to the works of bestselling and well-known authors, it is inevitable that some titles worthy of praise and discussion may not get the attention we think they deserve. Thus throughout the year, we will continue this feature that we started in 2009, to spotlight books that immediately struck a chord with us and made us say “just read this.” We will alert our readers about these titles as soon as they’re released so you can discover them for yourselves and recommend them to your family and friends.

Below are all of our selections thus far. For future "Bets On" titles that we will announce shortly after their release dates, please visit this page.

Bright Lights, Big Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews

September 2023

Mary Kay Andrews is back with BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CHRISTMAS, and it’s my favorite of all her holiday titles. I do confess that reading such a book in September had me panicked that I was way behind on “making my list and checking it twice.” But putting that aside, this is just the kind of Christmas story set in New York City that you want to read.

Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

September 2023

HAPPINESS FALLS by Angie Kim is a beautiful, poignant family story with a mystery layered inside it. Fourteen-year-old Eugene has Angelman syndrome. While he smiles and laughs, he cannot verbalize, so his loved ones have been dealing with these challenges. His father, Adam, has assumed the role of house husband and his caretaker. As the book opens, Eugene and Adam have been out hiking in a suburban park and are late coming home. When only Eugene appears at the door, he is very disconcerted and has blood caked under his fingernails and on his clothing. He is agitated and takes to his room to jump and make the sounds that he uses to soothe himself in these circumstances.

The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

September 2023

THE RIVER WE REMEMBER is one of my three favorite books of the year and the best of William Kent Krueger’s three stand-alone titles. The setting in Kent’s books always becomes a character, and his latest is no exception. Here we start with a river, where the lifeless body of Jimmy Quinn --- a man with a lot of money and countless enemies --- has been found. He has been dead long enough for the catfish to have discovered him.

The Whispers by Ashley Audrain

September 2023

A couple of years ago, I read Ashley Audrain’s debut novel, THE PUSH, and joked that I never will look at little pink mittens the same way again. I read THE WHISPERS over our summer holiday break, and once again she has nailed the young mother domestic thriller. It’s set in an upscale neighborhood where there are oversized new houses that were teardowns, as well as original homes that are smaller-sized, all on the same block. Harlow Street is the kind of place where you know your neighbors and socialize with them, then talk about them.

Evergreen: A Japantown Mystery by Naomi Hirahara

August 2023

I read CLARK AND DIVISION two years ago and learned so much from the story of Naomi Hirahara’s character, Aki Ito, who moved to Chicago with her parents as part of a resettlement of Japanese people during World War II. In EVERGREEN, the family moves back to Los Angeles and finds that the places they once knew changed in their absence. There is an epitaph at the start of the novel that I recommend you read to get an idea of the enormity of what happened to these people. While I often think of these books as historical fiction, they slide easily into the class of mystery as each one has a murder that must be solved.

The Connellys of County Down by Tracey Lange

August 2023

THE CONNELLYS OF COUNTY DOWN is Tracey Lange’s second novel, and just as she did so well with WE ARE THE BRENNANS two years ago, she is bringing readers a family saga. When the book opens, Tara is getting out of jail after serving an 18-month sentence on drug charges. This conviction means that she now cannot return to her job as a schoolteacher, which she loved. In fact, the entire time she was in prison, she was drawing pictures for the other inmates and herself. She leaves jail with the oddest person driving her home --- the police officer who arrested her. He always has wondered what she really was doing the night she was arrested, and he thinks she knows more than she is saying.

Everyone Here Is Lying by Shari Lapena

August 2023

Longtime readers know that I call Shari Lapena “The Queen of the One-Sit Read.” Why? Because once I start reading one of her books, I do not stop. The action peaks at the end of each chapter, and you think, Ah, I can read one more. And you keep going like that. EVERYONE HERE IS LYING lives up to its title. These characters are filled with secrets.

Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen

August 2023

Sarah Pekkanen’s GONE TONIGHT is written in two voices. Ruth Sterling is 41 and is a fierce protector of her 24-year-old daughter, Catherine. Ruth left home when she became pregnant at 17, and it’s been just the two of them for years. When the book opens, Catherine is looking forward to relocating to Baltimore for a new job. Ruth does not want her to make this move, as it will bring her too close to something from Ruth’s past that she needs to keep left behind. As the novel unfolds, readers are given more looks into that past and why Ruth is so protective.

Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent

August 2023

I have been a fan of Liz Nugent’s books since her debut, UNRAVELING OLIVER. So when STRANGE SALLY DIAMOND got on my radar, I had a feeling that I would be in for a terrific psychological thriller. And boy, did it deliver, with a very interesting premise and execution.

As the book opens, Sally’s father has passed away, and she has followed the instructions that he told her in one of their conversations --- that after he died, she should put him out in the bin. And well, since garbage is typically burned, she takes steps to try to burn him. Readers quickly see that Sally has some challenges with taking things literally. She clocks in on the neurodiverse spectrum and does not always get an implied joke. From this action, the town is now paying attention to Sally.

The Block Party by Jamie Day

August 2023

How well do you really know your neighbors? You will be thinking about that as you read about the affluent Alton Road neighborhood where THE BLOCK PARTY is set. When the book opens, it’s the day in May when the annual summer block party happens. Yes, people are gathering for fun, but immediately tensions start riding high. And then, just as a shot is fired and things start to get out of control, author Jamie Day shifts the action to a year earlier on Alton Road.