Criminal Element’s Best Books of 2017

2017 was a killer year for books! A couple of phenomenal debuts combined with some series regulars to fill our e-readers and bookshelves all year. With 2018 right around the corner, we present our picks for the best books of 2017: 


by Allison Brennan

Shattered brought forth the highly-anticipated merger of Allison Brennan’s two series characters Max Revere and Lucy Kincaid. But it’s not all roses at first, as the tight-lipped Max butts heads with the suspicious Lucy while they investigate a series of child murders committed across the country over dozens of years. Whether or not you’ve previously read these books, Shattered is a tightly paced page-turner you won’t want to miss.

Read an excerpt from Shattered, then check out Debbie Meldrum's review!

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If We Were Villains

by M. L. Rio

Oliver Marks is our narrator, and he’s just gotten out of jail for a crime he may or may not have committed during his college years. What follows is an intelligent thriller steeped in Shakespearean lore. Oliver and his seven classmates attend Dellecher Classical Conservatory, the top drama program in the US. When the group’s power dynamic begins to shift, their world is thrown from its axis. Will you figure out the crime before the curtain falls?

Read an excerpt from If We Were Villains, then take a visual tour with GIFnotes!

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Final Girls

by Riley Sager

Quincy Carpenter is fine—she's engaged, living in New York City with her almost-fiance, and running a popular baking blog—but 10 years ago, she survived a brutal massacre in the woods. She doesn't remember what happened that night and isn't interested in being part of the exclusive group of survivors that the press calls the Final Girls. But when the first Final Girl is found dead and the second appears on Quincy's doorstep, she's forced to confront the truth about who she really is and what actually happened that night. Thriller and horror fans alike will love this heart-pounding page-turner.

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The Last Place You Look

by Kristen Lepionka

A stunning, carefully plotted debut that follows PI Roxane Weary as she tries to solve a 15-year-old murder case and possibly clear the name of the accused man on death row. While Roxane is dedicated to her client and the case at hand, she is also struggling with the recent death of her father and juggling personal relationships that she can't fully commit to. Lepionka writes a lead that you can't get enough of—no matter her faults—and a crime that pushes her, and readers, to their limits.

Read an excerpt from The Last Place You Look, then check out Amber Keller's review!

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Strange Weather

by Joe Hill

Four novellas. Four vividly detailed worlds. One long nightmare. Each story in Strange Weather is memorable in its own way, but the clear standout is “Loaded,” the second story in the bunch, where a mall security guard courageously stops a mass shooting dead in its tracks. In turn, he becomes a pseudo-celebrity for gun rights activists. But as his celebrity status rises, his secrets threaten to spill over.

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He Said/She Said

by Erin Kelly

2017 was the year of the eclipse, so it's only fitting that a thriller centered around eclipses was one of the best books we read all year. Kit and Laura are eclipse chasers, and they witness what looks like a crime at an eclipse festival when they're young. Years later, they're living under the radar, hiding from what happened, and wondering if they trusted the wrong person. They can't keep hiding from the truth forever, and as it catches up to them during the next eclipse, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.

Read an excerpt from He Said/She Said, then check out Doreen Sheridan's review!

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Glass Houses

by Louise Penny

The 13th volume in the bestselling Gamache series finds Armand—now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec—and his fellow villagers immersed in a nearly mythical mystery where a clandestine character leaves a body in its wake and a crisis of conscience shakes Three Pines to its very roots.

Read an excerpt from Glass Houses, then check out John Valeri's review!

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Meddling Kids

by Edgar Cantero

The nostalgia factor is strong with Meddling Kids. Mix together the Scooby Gang, Nancy Drew, and H. P. Lovecraft, add a dash of It, and you get Edgar Cantero’s delightfully wacky and mysterious adventure. After the dismantling of the Blyton Summer Detective Club as teens, original members Andy, Kerri, and Nate (along with their canine companion, Tim) return to the town of Blyton Hills in order to figure out what actually happened on the night of their final case 13 years earlier. All three members are struggling to come to terms with the death of the group's former leader and need answers, once and for all.

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The Outsider

by Anthony Franze

Anthony Franze delivers the goods in this Supreme Court-drenched mystery in a way that only a person of his stature could. Chock-full of suspense and stippled with insider knowledge of the Supreme Court’s inner workings, The Outsider is a can’t miss mystery for legal thriller fans.

Read Chapter 1 of The Outsider, then listen to Chapter 2!

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The Marriage Pact

by Michelle Richmond

Imagine you're marrying the person of your dreams. At your wedding, your prominent client gives you an unusual yet intriguing gift: an invitation to join a mysterious and exclusive group known as The Pact, whose goal—keeping marriages happy and intact—seems simple enough. Then, imagine a life filled with glamorous parties, an influential social circle, and a very strict set of rules that need to be followed. Now, imagine what might happen when one of you breaks one of those rules. With one of this year's most interesting premises for a thriller, this book will keep you compulsively turning pages.

Read Janet Webb's review of The Marriage Pact!

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Paradise Valley

by C. J. Box

The Lizard King continues his cross-country homicidal spree in the fourth and final volume of Box’s bestselling series featuring Investigator Cassie Dewell. Will Cassie’s trap finally rid the world of the rig-driving maniac, or will the “killer on the road” make his escape to unleash his own brand of hell on the highways of America?

Read an excerpt from Paradise Valley, then take a visual tour with GIFnotes!

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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

by Matthew Sullivan

Not your run-of-the-mill book about a bookshop novel. This gritty debut begins with the suicide of a local bookshop patron, Joey Molina. Authorities chalk it up to a depressed young man, but Joey's favorite bookshop clerk, Lydia Smith, suspects there is more to it. Joey leaves Lydia the few possessions he had, and as Lydia dives deeper into Joey's past, she discovers more than she bargained for.

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  1. Nancy Shepherd

    Good to see Allison Brennan on this list! One of my favorites.

  2. Thirsty

    All very “female gendered” books ….. context, style and/or perspective ….. intersting choices.

  3. bill norris

    the book, Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero was my fave.

  4. vickie dailey

    I’ve only read one of these Strange Weather – I did not care for this – there are alot of the others that are on my TBR list

  5. Helen Martin

    Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. Outstanding title! Makes me want to read it.

  6. Melissa Keith

    I want to read “The Marriage Pact”by Michelle Richmond. I’ve read lots of good stuff about it.

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