Mysteries To Recommend

After I wrote about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I received so many recommendations of outstanding mystery series, and I wanted to share with you.

First, Pam wrote: “May I also suggest, the next time you are interested in phenominal prose, breathtaking attention to the human psyche and darned good mysteries , that you look up Louise Penny? First in the series: Still Life.

I have all to date from, and this is one series that ‘listens’ better than it ‘reads’, IMHO.”

Thanks, Pam!

And of course, Bookmatcher Billie Bloebaum had a list of books to recommend:

‘Zulu’ by Caryl Ferey is set in contemporary South Africa and I almost didn’t
get past the first chapter, which was brutal. But, I soldiered on and though I
can’t say I enjoyed the book, precisely, it was a well-crafted crime novel…. Another book
that provides a window into a country and several cultures that I am woefully
ignorant of. And an ending worthy of Dennis Lehane.

Susan Hill’s Simon Serailler series, starting with ‘The Risk of Darkness’.
Tonally, they remind me of Julia Spencer-Fleming and I have to admit to a bit
of a literary crush on Simon—he’s one of those wonderfully wounded heroes
whose journey back to humanity is painfully satisfying to observe. The novels
always leave me feeling a bit melancholy, but in an oddly pleasant way.

‘The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie’ by Alan Bradley has one of the best
protagonists ever. She’s only eleven, so there’s no chance of romance, but
she’s smart and full of curiosity and makes a quite engaging narrator. (The
second in the series, ‘The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag’ is also
available. I have a copy in my TBR pile, but haven’t read it yet, so I can’t
vouch for it’s quality.) This is one of those books that, had it not been
talked up to me by a number of people in different spheres of my life, I would
probably never have picked up (the “precocious” child narrator is often just
annoying or creepy-like-Dakota-Fanning).

‘Snow Angels’ by James Thompson is set in Finland, above the Arctic Circle, in
the dead of winter when the sun never shines. It’s written by an American
expat living in Finland, and I read it as much for its descriptions of a
people and a culture that I know bupkes about. Whenever I think Finland, I
immediately think of Lapp reindeer farmers, which is obviously not all there
is to the people and the country. The mystery is good, but Thompson’s ability
to make dark, snowy, and bitterly cold into something exotic and intriguing
was what kept me turning pages.

Coming Soon:

‘Ice Princess’ by Camilla Lackberg—Here’s what I sent to my rep after reading
this book “Not only are the Scandinavian countries producing some of the
best contemporary crime fiction, they also seem to have the benefit of
top-notch translators so that we mono-lingual Americans don’t have to trudge
through stilted phrasing and literally-translated idioms. This book was truly
gripping. Not just a crime novel, but an exploration of the hidden depths and
forgotten secrets of a small community. Like the best crime fiction, ‘Ice
Princess’ was as much about discovering the truth of the characters as it was
about discovering the truth of “whodunnit”.”

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens—I read this in manuscript form last May
(it’s being pubbed this July) and kept pestering the editor every time there
was a new catalog without this title in its pages. It is, quite frankly, one
of the most gripping suspense novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s all told
in first person, which gives it an intimacy and immediacy that adds to the
emotional wallop.

There – if you’re seeking mystery, that ought to hold you for weeks! What else in the mystery world has been rocking your socks?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Bibliophile says:

    Well, I can recommend a couple of Icelandic authors: Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Try “Silence of the Grave” by Arnaldur and “Last Rituals” by Yrsa.

    A couple of other Nordic authors I can recommend are Karin Fossum, especially “Calling Out For You” (American translation: “The Indian Bride”), which is heartbreaking and very good, and Anne Holt. Unfortunately my favourite book by Holt doesn’t seem to have been translated into English yet, but I think I can safely recommend the ones that have been translated.

  2. 2
    Leslee says:

    I highly recommend Beverly Connor. She has two series: Lindsay Chamberlain (which is good stuff- it is what she was writing when I discovered her) and Diane Fallon which is the series she is writing currently. I love her books, just flew through the latest one – The Night Killer. They need to be read in order just to get the full picture. One Grave Too Many is the first. Diane Fallon is a forensic anthropologist but she also is the head of a museum. Very cool stuff! Almost always am I surprised at who the bad guy is, which is so fun!

  3. 3
    Miranda says:

    The Dandy Gilver series by Catriona McPherson. Book 1 is “After the Armistice Ball”. It’s set immediately after WWI and the heroine is an upper class British married woman in her late 30’s. The writing is spectacular. Dandy is hilarious, but every so often, there will be this one bittersweet statement showing the emotions going on under the surface that she hides even from herself. The books are not preachy in any way, it’s just these glimpses. I can’t articulate it, but this is my favorite mystery series.

    Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockesmith. These are just funny. Two cowboy brothers, one of whom is illiterate and becomes fascinated by the Sherlock Holmes stories read to him by his brother. Old Red determines to become a detective as well.

  4. 4
    Laura (in PA) says:

    Though I love both, I read more mysteries than romance, so I’m thrilled to see this here.  I adore Louise Penny’s books – I hope you try them, and can’t wait to hear what you think.

    I have a lot of favorites, and a huge list to help me keep track, but to name a couple, Linda Fairstein’s and Margaret Grimes’ series always give me pleasure. Also Laurie R. King’s Holmes and Russell series, and Deanna Raybourn’s Julia Grey books. I could go on all day.

    Also, check out Nancy Martin’s newest, “Our Lady Of Immaculate Deception”, for a kick-ass heroine.

  5. 5
    Mikaela says:

    Hm. Läckberg is good, but not that good.  Karin Wahlberg is much better, and so is Åsa Larsson. Not sure if they have been translated to English though.

  6. 6
    Alyssa Day says:

    The Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery series by C. S. Harris.  Barb Ferrer told me about these and we enjoyed them so much we spent half an hour at Starbucks one day talking about them.

  7. 7
    Laura (in PA) says:

    Dang, I just know the responses today are going to do horrifying things to my TBR list.

  8. 8
    Kathy says:

    I, too, am currently obsessed with the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries.  Sometimes, even I get tired of reading only romance, so this series acts as a bridge between straight romance and straight mystery.  Plus, I love the Regency setting, presented in a more gritty light than in your typical romance.

  9. 9
    Terry Odell says:

    Mysteries – don’t get me started!  Dick Francis. Michael Connelly. Robert Crais. P.J. Tracy (fantastic banter, cool characters) John Sandford’s Prey series (Lucas Davenport is fascinating) Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes, PJ Parrish, Julie Kramer is another with a great voice … and on and on.

  10. 10

    I really liked Jeff Shelby’s Noah Braddock mysteries, featuring a wise-ass surfer PI, set in my beloved San Diego.  Very fun, fast-paced reads.  Only two in the series, KILLER SWELL and WICKED BREAK.

  11. 11

    Some great recommendations in this post!  Gotta love the Bitchery for their amazing bookwisdom and willingness to share the love.

    I want to throw Ian Rankin into the ring here for anyone looking for a good mystery series where the setting is as much a character as anyone else.  Set in the back streets, alleyways and tourist shadows of Edinburgh, Scotland, Rankin writes some of the best mysteries I’ve read.  Perhaps it’s because I picked up my first when I was studying at the University of Edinburgh, but I fell head over heels in love with the dark underbelly of this great, gothic city. Rebus is such a wonderful, curmudgeonly anti-hero.  While I love me some John Hannah, I was disappointed when they tapped him to play Rebus.  BBC needed someone grittier, beefier and older, imho.  But don’t let that throw you—the books are brill!

  12. 12
    Chicklet says:

    As always, Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos, although I their works tend to be classified as crime novels (as opposed to ‘cozy’ mysteries), and they’re pretty brutal. Excellent, but not fluffy.

    And of course, there’s always Georgette Heyer’s mysteries, which are much more like Christie’s drawing-room mysteries. I do find I have to spread out my reading of them, though, because Heyer, in satirizing the wealthy class, usually includes at least one character who’s so obnoxiously entitled that I want to punch them in the throat.

  13. 13
    mlg says:

    I highly recommend Sarah Caudwell’s series, very British and lots of lovely quirky humor.  Sadly the author died of cancer and there are only 4 – The Sirens Sang of Murder, Thus was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way to Hades, and the Sibyl in her Grave.

  14. 14
    darlynne says:

    Huge shout outs for both Louise Penny and Sarah Caudwell (mlg, so thrilled to see someone besides me remember her).

    Colin Cotterill writes about Dr. Siri in 1970’s Laos. Great, great characters and an interesting Vietnam war/cultural perspective. First book is The Coroner’s Lunch.

    Same for John Burdett’s contemporary Thai police series. Bangkok 8 is the first.

    The best mystery series you’re not reading: John Brady’s books about Dublin Garda Inspector Matt Minogue, starts with Stone of the Heart.

    A book-related mystery is John Dunning’s Booked to Die. This story changed modern book collecting forever.

  15. 15
    MB says:

    I don’t read a lot of mysteries, and some favorites have already been mentioned.  But here’s a few that I’ve enjoyed and some that I love.

    - You can’t beat Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey.  Classic and amazingly good.

    - Ariana Franklin’s series starting with “Mistress of The Art of Death” are amazing!  Adelia is a medieval medical examiner/forensic specialist. 

    -Alan Bradley’s series is a ton of fun.  Starts with “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”

    -P.F. Chisholm aka Patricia Finney has 2 series set during Elizabethan times.  They are wonderful!  “Gloriana’s Torch’ begins one series, “A Famine of Horses” begins the other.  Highly recommended!  She should be much better known than she is.

    -Margaret Maron’s Judge Deborah Knott series are long-time favorites.  The first is ‘Bootlegger’s Daughter’.  Her Sigrid Haraldsson series is great too, but long out of print.

    -Kerry Greenwood has two mystery series set in Australia.  The Phryne Fisher series is set in the 1920’s and the Corinna Chapman series is set present day.  I like both.

    I have a fondness for C.A. Belmond’s series as well.  They’re not straight mystery, but kind of a romance, european travelogue hybrid as well.  They’re a vacation in a book format.  There are 3 so far.  The first is “A Rather Lovely Inheritance”.

  16. 16
    Cathy says:

    I’m currently reading Val McDermid’s series about Carol Jordan and Tony Hill—great thrillers, love the writing, a lot of sexual violence though. Also loved C.S. Harris’ series about Sebastian St. Cyr.

    Some of my other must-reads in the mystery genre are: Julia Spencer-Fleming, Tana French, Jo Bannister, Margaret Maron, Laurie R. King, Dana Stabenow, Marcia Muller, Nevada Barr, Ann Parker, Kathryn Miller Haines, Elizabeth George, Elizabeth Peters, Faye Kellerman.

  17. 17
    SusannaG says:

    If you like (or would be willing to try) historical mysteries, I cannot recommend C.J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series more.

    It’s about a Tudor lawyer, working for Cromwell, who gets disagreeable jobs and stumbles over murder (and worse) while defending his clients.  The first is called Dissolution; the others out now are Dark Fire, Sovereign, and Revelation.  There’s a fifth out this summer, called Heartstone.

  18. 18
    Donna says:

    The best mystery I’ve read in a while was first time novelist Harry Dolan’s “Bad Things Happen.” I can’t say what a surprise it was to find out that this was a first novel. I’ve read plenty by writers with dozens of books under their belt that might as well tell you on the first page who did, because it isn’t going to take half the book to figure it out. This one was smart, wry and intricate.
    After that, anything by Jonathan Kellerman.

  19. 19
    Trisha says:

    I tell people who find Salander compelling to try Carol O’Connell’s Kathy Mallory series. Wretched past, computer genius, no social skills…and a detective with the NYPD. Jake Adelstein’s Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan might also appeal to people looking for something similar to Larsson, even though it’s non-fiction, because of the reporter writing about sex crimes and yakuza angle. It’s a seamy and sometimes morbidly funny look at a side of Japan we don’t often see.

    Other authors I love include Arnaldur Indridason and Jo Nesbo, my favorites of the Scandinavians. I’m also a fan of Colin Cotterill and Chelsea Cain, and how has no one mentioned Laura Lippman?! Lately, I’ve been getting into the South Africans. Malla Nunn’s A Beautiful Place to Die is excellent, and Deon Meyer’s books are more thrillers than mysteries, but so full of tension. Blood Safari is my favorite so far. For historical mysteries, I like Jacqueline Winspear.

  20. 20
    Miranda says:

    In the classic mystery vein, I’m really enjoying Elizabeth Daly, who was known as Agatha Christie’s favorite mystery writer. Her hero, Henry Gamadge, redefines ‘urbane’, and the books are very well written.

  21. 21
    cate says:

    I’ve just finished Imogen Robertson’s debut novel Instruments of Darkness. It’s set in the 18th century, & had me gripped from start to finish. A wonderfully convoluted plot,  a detestable villain, & two engaging protagonists in Harriet Westermain & Gabriel Crowther.
      For anyone who loves Lindsay Davis’ Falco books, I’ve recently discovered RS Downie, &  her hard-up (the ex wife took him to the cleaners & his family’s taken whats left)  legionnary doctor Russo.  He appears in Russo and the Demented Doctor,& Russo and the Dissappearing Dancing Girls . Beware …. both books resulted in my losing a day,as I found them unputdownable !

  22. 22
    Sandra says:

    Ah, yes… Falco. The hard boiled PI living in Vespasian’s Rome. Unfortunately, a lot of her earlier work is OOP and hard to find in the US.

    And then there’s Ellis Peters’ Cadfael books. He usually has a pair of young lovers to look out for in addition to solving the mystery.

  23. 23
    laurad says:

    Jan Burke’s books featuring reporter Irene and her detective husband Frank.

    Lee Child, and the sigh-worthy Reacher.

    Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole &/or Joe Pike novels.

    A second vote for John Sandford, a second vote for Jo Nesbo.

  24. 24
    Christine M. says:

    Another argument in favour of Louise Penny’s books, Sarah: they tale place up north in Quebec (author’s actually an English-speaking Canadian who lives south of Montreal and who’s very friendly; she came a couple of times to the bookstore where I used to work in Quebec City).

  25. 25
    Maya M. says:

    Mega enthusiastic agreement with recs for:

    ‘Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie’ by Alan Bradley – child narrator funny, whipsmart and terrifying all at once

    ‘Mistress of the Art of Death’ series by Arianna Franklin – all kinds of medieval turmoil, with murder mystery, pathology, and romance thrown in

    Marcus Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis, starting with ‘The Silver Pigs’

    and I’ll add one I haven’t see yet:

    ‘The Spellman Files’ series by Lisa Lutz, about a so-called ‘high functioning, severely dysfunctional’ family of private investigators – very entertaining

  26. 26
    cate says:

    @Sandra ” Ah, yes… Falco. The hard boiled PI living in Vespasian’s Rome. Unfortunately, a lot of her earlier work is OOP and hard to find in the US.”
      Lindsay Davis’ books are all in print & readily available from either or the Book Depository. Hope that helps

  27. 27
    Jody says:

    May I gently suggest the divine and late lamented Robert Parker?  Three series to choose from, all good, but my true loves are the Spensers.  Spenser, Susan. Hawk, Sunny, and Jesse.  Start with The Godwulf Manuscript and you’ll never look back.

  28. 28
    nancy says:

    Tony Hillerman is by far my favorite mystery author.  His books were about two Navajo Tribal Police officers named Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee who work in the Four Corners area.  Hillerman’s love for the Dinee and the land comes through in his descriptions of the landscapes, the characters, and the Navajo customs and traditions.

  29. 29
    KeriM says:

    Along with agreeing with some of the recommends from above, I will throw my two cents in for Greg Hurwitz’s Tim and Dray Rackley series, their romance has withstood some deep hits and they come back deep and stronger, word of warning their first book The Kill Clause is painful to anybody with a beating heart.

    Tim Downs – His Bug Man series with Nick Polchak, an entomologist, solves crimes with the help of his buggy friends and a wicked and fun sarcastic streak. I love him and just want to give him a big hug and tell him know he is not more bug than human and his out of this world fun Jewish mother would agree. Oy Vey!

    A new one for me is James Swain and my first book of his Midnight Rambler…loved the book and looking forward to Night Stalker.

    Anything by Jeff Deaver, F. Paul Wilson and his yummy fix-it man, Repairman Jack, Michael Palmer, James Rollins, John Lescroart and of course Carl Hiaasen, with a must read of Sick Puppy.
    I will stop now. :-)

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