Hi mystery fans! This week I thought I’d focus on three books with secret organizations&ndash...
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Jan 13, 2021

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In a rural secessionist state that is completely cut off from urban centers, Brooke Holland lives a peaceful, if hardscrabble life on the farm she runs with her husband and two daughters. However, when she encounters and captures an escaped criminal with ties to her dark, secret past, she must draw on her buried survival skills and bring her young family on a harrowing journey by foot through the woods for their own protection. What follows is a story about the impossible choices we make to survive and protect the ones we love.

Hi mystery fans! This week I thought I’d focus on three books with secret organizations–some good organizations, some bad organizations–that are super different from each other. So something for all reader stripes.

The Athena Protocol cover image

The Athena Protocol (The Athena Protocol #1) by Shamim Sarif

This recent, ongoing series has two books out so far, with the sequel released last year: The Shadow Mission. It’s for fans of YA and action films–so think CW show. The secret organization, Athena Protocal, is vigilante women fighting evil around the world but they’re top secret and have no ties to any other organizations (think CIA, MI5 etc). The series starts with the women of the group going after human traffickers and one member being kicked out, having to fight her way back in. The second takes us to India to investigate a girl’s school bombing and reveals the history of the organization.

While this deals with very real, awful issues around the world–acknowledging terrorism exists everywhere–as mentioned before, it feels like an action/CW show and isn’t in the dark/gritty category of books. It is intense though, with those action film scenes like “will they disable the bomb with only ten seconds remaining?!” And the women have real relationships with each other that involve having each other’s backs while also bickering and picking on each other. Bonus: Unlike most action films, the POC are not only in roles of bad guys and the series is queer. Review for first in series here, and TW for the sequel: suicide. This is a series where you need to start with the first book–who am I, saying this?– but it’s only at two so far, so you’ll be caught up real quick.

Teen Killers Club by Lily Sparks

This was a fun read that blended a bunch of tropes while feeling fresh. Signal Deere was convicted of her best friend’s murder and while she has no memory of what happened she continues to maintain her innocence. So when a secret organization offers her a chance to skip prison and join–they only select dangerous and manipulative under-18 prisoners–she reluctantly accepts. It’s the kind of organization that is training them to be assassins. The problem is nothing about Deere fits the profile of someone who wants to be an assassin, she instead is using this opportunity to try and solve the case of who murdered her best friend.

But first she’ll have to actually survive this “boot camp” training. She meets the other kids in training, all labeled as wastes and being used. They fight, form friendships, and fall in love, all while trying to stay alive and prove that they’re not wastes. Did I mention they’ve all been implanted with a little thing that will instantly kill them if they run away or go rogue? Fun organization. This was a page-turner as you try to solve who murdered Deere’s best friend while also watching the intense training and nail-biting mission…I found this balanced, entertaining while exposing our society’s treatment of teenage criminals well, and I really liked that Deere wasn’t the bad-ass becoming an assassin, but rather a scared young woman trying to survive. I went with the audiobook and inhaled it. It’s narrated by Jesse Vilinsky, an actress, who acts out the narration really putting you into the intense scenes. (TW past sexual assault)

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder by T.A. Willberg

And now we go to historical fiction and lean closer to the cozy side of crime writing. While this isn’t a puzzle solving adventure, and it’s a totally different book, I think those who were fans of Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts would find this entertaining. It’s set in the 1950s where a secret organization exists under London in its tunnels. Basically, people send notes requesting assistance from their detectives. Marion Lane is in training looking to make her way up Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries when one of their own is murdered. Clearly with an organization as secret as theirs it had to be one of them…

Lane, who is not only new and having the bit of personal life she has falling apart, finds herself investigating and questioning whether she even knows anything about the people she works for, and with–especially when she decides to put herself in danger to prove they have accused the wrong person.

This was a bit 007 with fun gadgets and inventions (and dangerous, not fun ones) with a wounded bird type lead trying to make her way in the world and prove herself. The audiobook has a delightful narrator, Karen Cass, and the story whisks you away to a whodunnit below London’s streets that will equally make you jealous you aren’t a part of this organization and maybe make you want to run away. (TW past suicide mentioned kind of as reveal, brief detail)

From The Book Riot Crime Vault

Grounds for Murder: Maps and Floor Plans in Mystery Novels

5 Speculative Fiction Takes on Sherlock Holmes


Browse all the books recommended in Unusual Suspects previous newsletters on this shelf. See upcoming 2021 releases. Check out this Unusual Suspects Pinterest board and get Tailored Book Recommendations!

Until next time, keep investigating! In the meantime, come talk books with me on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Litsy–you can find me under Jamie Canavés.

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