Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Reading (mystery edition)

I went on a mystery binge the last few weeks and decided to go ahead and post them all now. This way anyone who isn't interested in mysteries can just skip this one. I love mysteries of all kinds and I'm always on the lookout for a new series or author. Some of these are recommendations from you guys - thank you!

The Silkworm - The second in the Cormoran Strike series (written by J.K. Rowling) and just as enjoyable as the first.

The Seduction of Water and The Drowning Tree - I'm always on the hunt for a "literary thriller" and wanted so badly for these to fit the bill. They didn't quite work for me, although they came close. I don't want to be a snob but I think the author was trying too hard to make them literary and the effort showed. Lots of academic references, which I'm down for, but almost always accompanied by explanation, which made the reading a little clunky. I know that if you don't explain references there's a chance that your readers will miss them, but I'm a believer in trusting your audience. I know that I miss out on many, many cultural references when I read because I'm a bit deficient that way, but I honestly prefer being a little confused to having things spelled out for me. Maybe that's just me?

Shades of Earl Grey and Sweet Tea Revenge - I'm not sure if I've already admitted that I read these, but it's embarrassing. They're cozy mysteries set in the South. Probably written at a fourth grade reading level, not at all gory, sometimes predictable, but for some reason I find them comforting. I'll check them out when my Kindle is empty and I'm reading them all out of order and it doesn't matter.

Death of Yesterday - The Hamish Macbeth series is really similar. Cozy mysteries set in the Scottish Highlands. Very simplistic, somehow enjoyable. I read this series and the Agatha Raisin series by the same author. Incredibly formulaic, but I keep getting drawn back to them so I guess the joke is on me? I mean, I did read the entire Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High series growing up, so I clearly have a high tolerance for this type of writing.

Swerve - This is a straight up thriller, gory, fast paced and intense. That said, the gore passed a line for me (shocking, because I didn't know I had one) and at some point I was more grossed out than entertained. I waver on whether I would recommend this. Lots of people enjoyed it, but it didn't quite work for me, even though the twist was pretty great.

A Beautiful Place to Die - Loved this one. Set in South Africa in the 1950s, this is the first in a series with police detective Emmanuel Cooper. He's sent to a small town to investigate the death of a white police captain. I know very little about apartheid South Africa, so this doubled as a small history/culture lesson. I didn't know some of the terms that were used so I was googling as I read and I'm sure I was missing some of the nuances, but it was a really interesting setting along with a solid plot.

Renie Airth's John Madden series - I had read River of Darkness when it first came out and loved it. For a couple years I kept checking for a sequel but finally decided it must have been a one off. Apparently I gave up just a bit too soon, because The Blood Dimmed Tide came out in 2003, The Dead of Winter was released in 2009 and The Reckoning just came out this year (the author's charmingly old school web site still refers to the series as a trilogy, but something must have changed). They were all available at my library so I went on a binge and read them back to back. The first book is set just after WWI and the last one takes place just after WWII. It's a great series - nicely plotted with a good psychological bent.  

The Girl on the Train - I knew that this couldn't possibly live up to the hype, but I enjoyed it despite that. I figured out the ending a little early (I think my brain was on overdrive from all the mysteries) which is always a bummer because then I'm rushing through the rest of the book because I'm a bit bored.


And since this post is just for mystery lovers, here are a few of my faves in the mystery world. I'm probably forgetting a ton, but I'll at least skim the surface.

Literary thrillers (are you as sick of this phrase as I am? Is there a better way to put it? Mystery novels, maybe?) - Rosamund Lupton, Tana French.

Serial killer craziness with maximum gore - Will Trent and Grant County series by Karin Slaughter (so curious about whether this is a pen name or if her genre was basically determined by birth). And, fine, the first few in the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell, even if the high tech computer references are totally dated and now hilarious. The series gets increasingly terrible, to the point where the newest ones are nearly unreadable, but some of those early books are solid.

Fast paced thrillers with lots of weaponry and a military edge - Jack Reacher series by Lee Child  - note there are some duds in there but most are solid.

Independent female PIs - Sue Grafton (OMGEE just saw that "X" is out and put it on hold!!!) and Marcia Muller (Grafton is funnier, Muller tends to be more emotionally complex, both are great).

Funny, well written mysteries with great plotting, very light on gore - anything by Elizabeth Peters (notably, the Amelia Peabody series) and anything by Dorothy Gilman (notably, the Mrs. Pollifax series).

One offs - The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly (didn't like her others).

It goes without saying - Agatha Christie.


It's time to restock my shelf and I should probably break out of the mystery habit for a bit. Unless there's something amazing I'm missing out on? I know there is this whole thing about reading light stuff in summer, but I think mysteries in fall/winter are really where it's at.

45 comments:

  1. I can't wait to dig into this list! I practically fangirled at the shout out in your last reading lately post :). Also, you beat me to my next recommendation - Tana French! I read all of her books before I found the Maeve Kerrigan series.

    The Girl on the Train was okay, but I felt disappointed because I figured out the ending early on, and I felt like slapping Rachel through most of it :/.

    I've been slow getting through everything I want to read from your reviews (isn't that the case for everyone, I always have a running list!), but I did read Everything I Never Told You and while it wouldn't have initially caught my eye I really enjoyed it. I love these posts so much, they are wonderful!

    The Miniaturist is next, then maybe Swerve if I can handle it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I enjoyed the first Miss Fisher mystery I read, but since I'm such a 1920s clothes person, I loved watching the television show even more.

    Have you read the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't tried either of those series! Making a note ....

      Delete
    2. The author is a world builder extraordinaire, but if you don't relish the thought of being confused for half the book, it can be a difficult experience. I think you'd like the references in Thursday Next, it's very literature-based.

      Delete
    3. Ha! I'll keep that in mind and try to start one on a day when my brain isn't mush (difficult during the academic year).

      Delete
    4. I love the Thursday Next series! Nothing is scary but it is very intriguing and I love the spunky-ness of Thursday.

      Delete
    5. Oh man, wish I had thought of suggesting Jasper Fforde - such a clever series.

      Delete
  3. I can't wait to read "X"!!!
    Also have you ever read Rhys Bowen? Specifically her Molly Murphy series or lady Georgiana series?
    It's getting colder in Massachusetts, looking forward to reading a bunch this winter!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the recs! And I think reading in winter is the best - not sure why summer gets all the buzz!

      Delete
  4. Nice! I'm going to keep some of these in mind.
    I love Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series.
    And Mrs. Pollifax is an old family favorite- we used to read her in Reader's Digest Condensed- but she's great uncondensed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll check out Louise Penny! Thanks!

      Delete
    2. I second Louise Penny. They are perfect for wintertime.

      Delete
  5. Have you ever read the Dave Gurney series by John Verdon? They're kind of cliched (retired police officer who moved to upstate New York, rocky marriage, can't keep himself out of mysteries, etc.), but I find them comforting, too, and kind of just like hanging out in the setting—does that make sense? Also, Michael Robotham mysteries! There's a ton of them and I read like one a week at one point...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haven't tried either of those! I'll add some to my library list.

      Delete
  6. I think many of these came from you in the first place, but here's what I've been loving lately:

    --Denise Mina (Scottish feminist mysteries)
    --John Le Carre (is it a spy book? there's a big mystery component to the early ones that I've been reading)
    --John Lawton (you can read them chronologically or as written, I'm not sure there's a best way)
    --Kate Atkinson (Jackson Brody mysteries)
    --Andrea Camilleri (with/from the Inspector Montalbano TV series, I find they really complement each other, but part of that is testament to how much I enjoyed the TV series)
    --Josephine Tey (harder to hunt down at my library, who gets rid of old books rather quickly, but there are a lot of recent reissues, too)
    --C.J. Sansom (who I haven't read recently, and hadn't realized had another book out in 2014...now onto my library list!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooooh - you've had some good reads! I enjoy Denise Mina's books but for some reason don't love them. Maybe I should try again. I haven't tried Andrea Camilleri. And I know I should have already read all the Josephine Tey mysteries because they are classics, but somehow I've never gotten around to them!

      Delete
  7. Have you read Jo Nesbo? Some of the best detective writing I’ve seen. I’m totally addicted.
    Ling time reader but this is my first time commenting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have read some of the Henry Hole series and really enjoyed it! I'm always a little cautious because I generally don't love Scandanavian mysteries (I know, I know, I'm weird!) and find them really depressing. But somehow Nesbo is one I enjoy. I should check out more of the series!

      Delete
  8. If you love the light read kinda mysteires, I highly reccomend anything by Charlaine Harris! Especially the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, easy to read but oh so addicting! 8 books in that series, but all her series are good (my least favorite is the "Southern Vampire mystieris" series, which the TV series True Blood are based on).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've read the entire Southern Vampire series, I think! I read them after I'd watched True Blood but still really enjoyed them. But I OD'ed and had to take a break.

      Delete
  9. I've never read the Carol Goodman books above but I did stumble upon the Lake of Dead Languages a few years ago and I really liked it. I highly recommend it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe I'll give her another try! It also might just be my own weirdness. The plots are good! The writing is good! I just hate the clunky academic references.

      Delete
  10. I agree about mysteries/thrillers in the fall/winter. I actually loved Swerve -- not for the gross out but for the setting.

    I recently read Recipes and Love for Murder by Sally Andrew, which is set in South Africa and is a murder mystery involving a lot of food descriptions, and it was great!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the setting in Swerve was good! And I was in it for about half the book and then the dog part just put me over the edge and I almost quit.

      Delete
  11. Always love your book posts!

    ReplyDelete
  12. You've given me so many good reading ideas that I want to give back!

    Have you read P.D. James? I came across her several years ago when I was looking for Agatha Christie read-alikes. These books are a little edgier/less quaint than Christie, and not so darn puzzle-y, but they're intelligent and beautifully written and might even be "literary!" James' books mostly follow Adam Dalgliesh, a broody poet/inspector, but she has a few about a young female PI called Cordelia something that I also really liked.

    Another mystery writer I love is Margaret Maron. She sets her books in North Carolina, where I live. They are plainly-written, not fancy, but to me they almost breathe because they are so well-researched and accurate. The Southern characters are all pretty great, and the story that runs through all of the books is solid. Most of her books focus on Deborah Knott, a North Carolina judge. There's another series that focuses on an NY police detective called Sigrid Harald, but I've only read one of them and people say it's not Maron's best book because it was her first.

    Anyway--thanks for the mystery recs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oddly, I am iffy on P.D. James! I have read some that I really love and some that haven't grabbed me. I probably need to sit down and try to read the Dalgliesh series from the beginning, instead of just checking out random books here and there.
      I'll see if my library has any of the Margaret Maron books!

      Delete
  13. I just read X last week, and it was great!

    I recently started reading the Maeve Kerrigan books by Jane Casey, and so far I'm really liking them (I'm in the middle of the 3rd). http://www.amazon.com/Jane-Casey/e/B003VNABHU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1444253958&sr=1-3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! Glad it was good. I'm fifth on the list right now, so looking forward to it. I'm so impressed that Grafton has been able to make that series hold up.
      I love the Maeve Kerrigan books! They were recommended by a reader a couple of rounds ago and I devoured them. But I'm still waiting for the third one because it wasn't available at my library. Should check and see if they have it now.

      Delete
  14. Mysteries! This year I've got so much on my plate that I only have the energy to read mysteries... which I also find oddly comforting. I've tried some of the series you mentioned but I just keep going back to my homegirl Agatha since I've never met one of her books I didn't enjoy. I've also read some Hardy Boys books this year (not kidding) and those are just so silly and fun for something light before bed. Obviously I'm having a hard time advancing beyond the baby sitters club reading stage myself.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Did you see there should be a new Amelia Peabody book soon. The Painted Queen. Should publish next year but it has been delayed a couple of times already. Apparently she had finished writing it before she passed away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is critical news that I did not know! I've been so sad knowing the series is over. Texting my sister RIGHT NOW to let her know since we're both obsessed.

      Delete
  16. I second Jo Nesbo (if you're going for gritty) and Louise Penny (another "cozy mystery," as they call it, though this one Canadian, so a lot of the cultural references probably fly right by when I'm reading).

    If you're a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you might also try Laurie R. King's series of Mary Russell books. They're some of my favorites.

    Thanks for all the recommendations!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love mysteries, so super excited to see this post. My last few reads have been a bit disappointing so going to try one of these. Have you read any Jennifer McMahon? I downloaded The Night Sister but so far underwhelmed...I heard The Winter People was better, so fingers crossed for that one! Also, not sure if you've read it, but The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters is hands down the best thriller/atmospheric mystery I've ever read...one of my favorite books in general. I can't recommend it enough!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm so excited to try some of your recommendations because i just finished the 20+ books of Inspector Rebus (Ian Rankin) and am feeling at a loss without another waiting in the wings! But really, the Rebus series is terrific and because it spans a 20 year writing career you can see the development of the character and the writer himself. I was a little ambivalent when I started and it became addictive as it went along :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Have you read any Laura Lippman? I started with And When She Was Good and have read five others. None of the Tess Monaghan series (yet) but I like the female characters. They are multi-faceted and constantly surprising.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just read and devoured three of her standalones! When She Was Good is up next!

      Delete
    2. Yes, I've read several Laura Lippman that I thought were solid, but have had a hard time getting into the Tess Monaghan series!

      Delete
  20. Before I Go To Sleep & Second Life by SJ Watson are great thrillers.
    I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes is a fast spy thriller that I absolutely loved.
    The Accident by Chris Pavone
    Sidney Chambers & The Shadow of Death: The Grantchester Mysteries by James Runcie - I've never watched the tv show but i adore these
    Flavia de Luce Mystery series by Alan Bradley - quirky and easy and light

    ReplyDelete
  21. I have recently started reading your blog, Rachel, and I absolutely love it (I'm working my way backwards through all the posts - it's far more interesting than the book I'm currently reading). So far, I've been inspired to reorganise my kitchen cupboards, and join a library, directly as a result of your bloggerly influence - both of which I am unreasonably excited about. I am looking forward to getting some mystery novels out of the library, so thanks for these useful recommendations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww - that's so sweet of you! And I'm glad you're using your library! Such a great resource.

      Delete
  22. I haven't noticed anyone mention Minette Walters but I always enjoy her - the books are really well written/well paced, good mystery. Check her out!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Have you read the Erin Solomon series by Jen Blood? It starts with All the Blue-Eyed Angels and there are four more after that. She just came out with a new book that I have but haven't started reading yet because I'm almost 2/3 of the way through The Wise Man's Fear. I started The Name of the Wind based on your earlier recommendation and have loved the series.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Some suggestions for when you are ready for your next mystery binge: PD James - A Certain Justice (the only one of hers that I've really liked), and anything by Peter Temple (an Australian crime writer) but I think his work would translate well.

    ReplyDelete

Trying captchas this time - better or worse than having to log in to comment? Let me know! Sorry for all the hoops but the spam has been terrible lately!