As usual, I have taken this task of selecting my Top Reads List very seriously and really struggled to make sure the list commemorates my favorite books of the year. Simply put, sometimes this means splitting hairs and having to leave off books that I truly loved but which just didn’t quite have the lasting impact of others. This does not mean I didn’t enjoy those other books – I did! – but anytime you are making a list, some things make the cut and others do not. Rest assured, if I talked about your book here on BOLO Books, I am proud to have read your work and will continue to suggest it to folks for years to come. These are just the books I feel had the most resonance with me this year. I should also say there are still 2023 reviews coming later this month, but all those books have been read and factored into this end-of-year list.

I will remind readers that this is my Top Reads list – not necessarily a Best Of list. Certainly these books are worthy of any Best Of list, but since I did not read everything published this year, I always hesitate to call it such and I question any venue that proports to highlight the best as I am fairly sure no one has read all the crime fiction books published in 2023. So remember, this is just my completely subjective list of the Top Reads of those that I experienced this year.

I am proud once again that my Top Reads list reflects the vast diversity found in the crime fiction genre. My life has always been improved by allowing many different voices to guide me through life and these books show that anyone who thinks that quality diverse crime fiction is a passing trend will be sadly mistaken.

My final list is presented in alphabetical order based on the novel’s title – except for the first choice, which represents my overall favorite novel of the year. Along with the cover image for each selected book, I have included a short extract from the original review. Please follow the link following each extract to re-visit the full review and to find purchase links.

I can already hear you saying, enough with the babble, let’s see this list!


Happiness Falls is not only one of the best novels of the year, but also one of the best novels ever. Readers will find themselves wanting to check in on the Parson Family even after the final pages are turned. Not only because we care about them, but because we recognize that they make us better people by association. This is a novel of ideas and ideals that forever change the way we view the world. That is more than can be expected from any reading experience, but it’s exactly what Angie Kim delivers in Happiness Falls.” (FULL REVIEW)

BEWARE THE WOMAN by Megan Abbott

“Megan Abbott is an author whose career is the envy of other creative types…Beware the Woman, is both unlike anything she has written before and a perfect complement to her existing work…Megan Abbott wants her readers to feel the world’s menace from all angles—natural and fabricated. Beware the Woman unspools in a hypnotic way, keeping readers under its spell even when they are not actively turning its pages. To read it is to remember it—Megan Abbott’s Beware the Woman is a work that is not to be forgotten.” (FULL REVIEW)

PENANCE by Eliza Clark

“In Penance, Eliza Clark is doing nothing less than tackling one of the most persistent problems facing modern society—the ever-fluid line between journalistic reporting and biased commentary. By choosing to focus on (a fictional) true crime, she is able to examine this dilemma in a way that truly brings the problem home for readers…And then there is the writing itself. Eliza Clark is a born wordsmith. She tackles every sentence with the fearlessness of a warrior, never concerned about breaking arbitrary rules when necessary. In many ways, the form echoes the themes—rebellion, individuality, and obsessive nature.” (FULL REVIEW)

HIDE by Tracy Clark

“Everything fans love about that first series—a strong female lead character, a rooted sense of place (again Chicago), touches of humor, and well-crafted mystery plots—is present in Hide, only kicked up several notches. Hide is the best thing Tracy Clark has written to-date and the sky seems to be no limit for the future…Tracy Clark keeps things moving with short chapters and consistent cliffhangers that virtually force the reader to read just one more chapter—until before too long Hide is over and the reader is craving the next novel immediately—like a drug addict jonesing for another hit.” (FULL REVIEW)


All the Sinners Bleed continues S. A. Cosby’s smooth onslaught against the complacent crime fiction genre, determined to confront casual fans and devoted fanatics of the genre with honest and compelling stories told from perspectives that have too long been overlooked, ignored, denied, suppressed, and/or forgotten…The Southern Gothic tradition is in good hands with S. A. Cosby—that unique fusion of setting, character, and cathartic bloodletting. Just four novels in and S. A. Cosby has proven himself the gold-standard among a wealth of really excellent writers—both in crime fiction and well beyond.” (FULL REVIEW)

TIME’S UNDOING by Cheryl A. Head

“The latest book to register on the ‘future classic seismograph’ is Time’s Undoing by Cheryl A. Head…Time’s Undoing is a modern crime novel firmly rooted in historical fact…It is Cheryl A. Head’s ability to authenticate a direct (and emotional) throughline from the past to present that compel Time’s Undoing into becoming such an important reading experience…take a trip with Cheryl A. Head back into our heritage that once again proves that past is prologue and until we come to terms with that, our nation will continue repeat the same ills ad infinitum.” (FULL REVIEW)


Murder Your Employer is a hilarious novel. Like much of Rupert Holmes’ work, it is filled with laugh-out-loud moments. It’s a bit like a complex cocktail comprised of clever wordplay, witty (and dry, like your favorite vermouth) humor, and nostalgia for a bygone era. There are endless puns, jokes, and enough humorous asides to fill successful sets for several comedians. All juxtaposed against the very serious act of murder. And make no mistake about it, the lessons on how to get away with this most heinous of crimes are so detailed and realistic, one would be forgiven for closing the book each evening thinking ‘yeah, I think I could get away with murder.'” (FULL REVIEW)

THE TAKEN ONES by Jess Lourey

“After a stellar run of standalones in which her profile in the crime fiction community continued to rise, Lourey announced that her next novel would be the start of a new series…Aiming to keep her readers on their toes and to never allow a moment of downtime, Jess Lourey has packed this novel with a seemingly endless trail of complexities. In less capable hands, this hodge-podge would have become a hot mess, but Lourey never loses sight of the main narrative, and each new revelation either adds depth to her characterizations or provides another unexpected avenue of investigation for the central case.” (FULL REVIEW)


Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is very much of the cozy tradition. There is no sex, light language, and any excessive violence—remember, there are fourteen deaths—is kept off the page. Like many cozy mysteries, humor and laugh-out-loud moments dominate. But there is also some intangible element that allows this book to resonate with readers who typically prefer darker, grittier crime novels as well. It’s a masterclass on how to appeal to the widest possible audience without compromising the trademarks that make each sub-genre so unique….Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is an award-worthy novel that uses the history of our beloved genre to full effect.” (FULL REVIEW)


“It is rare when a novel that is virtually impossible to classify succeeds on all levels, but that is exactly what Ashley Winstead accomplishes with Midnight is the Darkest Hour. This book works as a mystery, as a thriller, as a romance, as a serial killer exposé, as a vampire legend, and as a bildungsroman…The trajectory Midnight is the Darkest Hour takes is unique and unexpected, and yet readers will feel comfortable within its pages. Even as the truth gets darker and more disturbing, Ruth and Ever’s connection grounds the reader and leaves us hoping for some type of positive outcome.” (FULL REVIEW)

TOP READS – Debut Novels


“Alex Hay’s debut crime novel, The Housekeepers, is a dastardly and delightful romp through Edwardian London with the servant class as the reader’s guide. The Housekeepers is a confection—almost like a bon-bon served beside a flute of expensive champagne while lounging for hours among luxurious bubbles in an ornate clawfoot bathtub…Reading The Housekeepers is like jumping on a moving train and never stopping until the final destination is reached. The chapters fly by, providing the perfect volume of historical accuracy to keep the reader oriented in the past, without bogging the forward action down with unnecessary detail.” (FULL REVIEW)


“Nothing about Mother-Daughter Murder Night feels like a debut. Nina Simon’s assured hand guides readers along this journey with the skill of a veteran storyteller. The vibrant setting—most especially the natural surroundings of the area—is brought to life with such clarity that readers will be forgiven for swatting away at imaginary gnats…But in the end, it is the Rubicon women who serve as the core of this story. It is their relationship that readers will remember the most once the covers are closed.” (FULL REVIEW)

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL by Rose Wilding

“Aficionados of crime fiction can hardly ask for a more gripping opening to a novel than that which is offered in Speak of the Devil. In a demolished apartment building on the top floor penthouse suite, seven women stand in a circle around the severed head of a man, with no body in sight. The life trajectories of each of these women was derailed in some tragic way by the evil machinations of Jamie Spellman (the dead man) and readers are quickly told that one of the women present killed him. But which one?…Speak of the Devil is a gritty read.” (FULL REVIEW)