I read mystery novels, always have, as a diversion. I like flawed detectives with a good old fashioned shitty home life and lots of baggage. I know it’s a cliche, but if it weren’t a cliche it wouldn’t be good comfort reading. Henning Mankell’s Wallander is probably the best example – bonus points because Mankell apparently hated writing them and would rather write anything else, and I think a little bit of that came through in his main character. Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch is good, Ian Rankin’s John Rebus is great, but I’ll read whatever Amazon gives me for free through Prime Reading. A simple crutch to occupy my mind is all I’m looking for.
I just finished Tyler Dilts’ Mercy Dogs, and I thought it was a great example of the genre. He also got the details of taking care of a parent who has dementia and medical problems right. I figure if someone gets the details you know right, they’re probably right about the other stuff, like the experience of having a traumatic brain injury.
Here’s an open thread, and if you have recommendations, please make them.
Dave Robichaux by James Lee Burke
Charlie Parker by John Connolly
Any of the Arkady Renko novels by Martin Cruz Smith, but I especially like Gorky Park, Havana Bay, and Polar Star.
I like Elmore Leonard. The women are smart, his good guys are never all that good, his bad guys are never all that bad, and sometimes they trade places entirely. His dialogue is always snappy , no superfluousness to it at all. Don’t neglect his early westerns, his style while still developing was already apparent.
The Bosch TV series on Amazon Prime is terrific.
Starring the excellent Titus Welliver.
My local PBS station has a cable channel that mostly does international police procedurals when it isn’t doing international news feeds.
Wallander is my second favorite. They apparently love him too, because there are several series with different actors doing the same books.
I prefer Martin Beck.
Also that German guy whose partner is a german shepherd. Not RinTinTin, but those dogs can act.
I’ll note that the original Martin Beck ‘Swedish’ mysteries by Wahloo and Sjowall have all been republished and are (obviously) worth reading.
Would also recommend Bearskin, by James A. McLaughlin.
Came out last year. First novel. Kind of an eco-detective thriller.
@MattF: They are. I have.
Cathie from Canada
Stephen Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger books, particularly the early ones – Black Light has one of the best twist endings I have ever read, plus fascinating characters. Point of Impact also excellent. The later books got somewhat repetitive, unfortunately.
Dorothy A. Winsor
I really like Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series, set in Belfast during the troubles.
I tend to read mysteries obsessively for a while and then get bored and read something else for a while.
The Myron Bolitar series by Harlen Coben is really good. He’s a sports agent crime solver (think of it as a cozy mystery aimed at guys). He’s funny and has the whole “laugh in the face of danger” noir vibe.
I favor the two Roman detectives of Lindsey Davis (the first 20 books about Marcus Didius Falco, and the next eight about his daughter Flavia Albia). Her research into Roman life is excellent, and her people (heros, villains, and even throwaways) feel real, in the sense that they’re not cardboard pieces being pushed around a board to make the author’s point (or plot) work, but that their actions and motivations are human,
Cathie from Canada
@BGinCHI: Yes, its remarkable the way they have taken some of the book plots and woven them into the series so well. Looking forward to the next season.
If you like Michael Connelly and have not read any thing other then the Bosch series try the Poet. That’s the first of three novels, the third due out in June. I also recommend John Carlos Blake. Not strictly detective novels, but well written and researched. He writes about gunslingers, mobsters and other n’er do wells. His best stuff is about the Wolfes, a family of gun runners on the Texas/Mexico border.
Robert Crais and his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series generally. But he also wrote a standalone called “Suspect”, which is the best detective story ever written from a dog’s point of view featuring LA police officer Scott James and his police dog Maggie. Maggie and Scott join Cole and Pike in a second book, “The Promise”. Maggie stars.
Dorothy A. Winsor
One of the things I like best about those books is the way Davies sometimes has Falco using modern slang. It makes him feel closer to us, I think. And whatever he was saying in Latin is probably more or less equivalent.
Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor series. Another Irish mystery writer offering a deeply flawed detective.
Also, for classic American, you can’t beat ‘Red Harvest’ by Dashiell Hammett. The (nameless) Continental Op, the novel’s detective/protagonist, is not as famous as other Hammett characters, but ‘way crazier and ‘way greater, IMO.
@Cathie from Canada: Agreed. Also, the best title sequence in TV.
I also love the whole ensemble in that show. Really well done.
@sab: Inspector Rex?
In contrast to mistermix, I usually prefer detective/mystery novels in which the protagonist does not have a horrible home life – so my bookshelves would be a howling wasteland, if he dropped by in hopes of borrowing a book.
Some of my favorite mystery writers are Charlotte Armstrong, Dorothy Sayers, and Josephine Tey, because I enjoy the character portrayals (both protagonists and walk-ons). FYI: Sayers has some moments of “of her time” bigotry that appall me.
Barbara Michaels (who also wrote as Elizabeth Peters), wrote Smoke and Mirrors, set in the campaign headquarters of a woman running for the US Senate. It was published in 1989, when there were only 2 women in the US Senate: Kassebaum (R) and Mikulski (D).
Lots of other authors here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_female_detective/mystery_writers
Chacal Charles Calthrop
I second any recommendation for Dashiell Hammett & Raymond Chandler, but I also enjoy Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books. Classic mysteries full of detail of exactly what it was like to live in NYC in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s….
Denise Mina has three separate Glasgow based mysteries, all with female protagonists, one a journalist, one a detective and the first the girlfriend of the main victim. I loved all of them, but loved her most recent book less.
Although a bit dated, John Harvey’s Charlie Resnick series is one of my favorites. Also liked Wallander a lot, as well as a few other Nordic crime series.
Never mind. Fixed previous comment to include link.
The Dark Avenger
It’s his best novel that was never filmed, but was influential from Kurosawa’s Yohimbo to spaghetti Westerns by Sergio Leone.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: I agree. What we know about Roman culture has it shockingly similar to ours, absent some of the technological and personality references, so it’s easy to believe that what he says is current then.
I’m partial to Louise Penney’s “Inspector Gamache” series and Elizabeth George’s “Inspector Lynley” series!
@Chacal Charles Calthrop: I love the Marlowe books, especially the first and last ones. Don’t like some of the racially charged language, although he definitely seems to have evolved over time.
John Dunning’s Cliff Janeway books —the Bookman ones, have a real burn to them.
@pamelabrown53: We talked about Lynley here a month or so ago. I actually prefer the series where they don’t swell as much on the home lives of either Lynley or Havers. Although I do appreciate that Lynley would have sided with Richard III at Bosworth.
@OzarkHillbilly: he is probably my favorite in crime novel genre. The Switch is a real hoot! I’ve always felt these sorts of books gave me a real sense of place, as well. Elmore L. Detroit and Florida, Sara Paretsky Chicago, JL Burke Louisiana, Marcia Muller San Francisco, the list goes on. Also Carl Hiassen (sp?) in Florida – Double Whammy about competitive bass fishing is my favorite of his, with Skintight (about a rogue plastic surgeon, with a Geraldo Rivera character named Reynaldo Fleming) as a close second.
A detective novel written from the POV of a dog, with a friend named Cole?
That seems tailor-made for this blog!
I can’t wait to write down all these new names! My list of holds at the library is gonna be huge!
Ann Cleeves. Her Vera series and Shetland series were both made into tv series. I liked the tv shows a lot but the books are even better.
@Chacal Charles Calthrop:
Rex Stout is fun. We just started reading a Perry Mason, The Case of the Restless Redhead, and we’re enjoying the ’50s atmosphere. Lots of landline phone action.
@H.E.Wolf: Have you tried Patricia Moyes? I love her Henry Tibbett mysteries and his wife is a major character and the two of them are delightful. Murder Fantastical is probably the funniest mystery I’ve ever read.
Thanks to you we got Britbox. We started from the first episode of Lynley, and I don’t think we ever saw it! I had no recollection of Deborah and Simon being included. Luckily they seem to disappear at some point. I liked that first Helen, though.
@zhena gogolia: Did you see this new Perry Mason coming out on HBO?
Hope it’s good.
Jack Vance wrote some SF detective stories (Magnus Ridolph, Miro Hetzel) that were pretty good. SF, you say, but he did win an Edgar in his earlier period.
@Omnes Omnibus: Just wanted to say Hi, you old fart.
How’s Madison and all?
Tell me you still own a bike.
HRH mistermix, Lord Bombay Sapphire, Duke of Schweppes
Thanks for the all the recommendations! I like Adrian McKinty’s Belfast series – those are great and probably something other B-J readers would like, even if they don’t like morose detectives. I also like Denise Mina. I’ve read Hammett and Chandler. I’m going to check out Martin Beck and some of the other recommendations.
The BBC Wallander series is well done, but Kenneth Branagh just isn’t physically right and always seems to be hiding a smile. The Swedish version with Krister Hendriksson has a better Wallander. The Bosch TV series is good, too.
@zhena gogolia: In the first episode, Lynley is at Simon and Deborah’s wedding when Havers comes to get him. And there are a few bits of unhappy home life that pop up. His dad’s cancer and his mom’s affair, her mom’s dementia, etc., but they don’t subsume the storyline like they do at times in the books.
@BGinCHI: I saw something about it. It doesn’t look promising to me! Raymond Burr forever!
@BGinCHI: Madison is fine. We finally have snow. And, yes, I still have a bike, but it is mothballed for the winter.
@Omnes Omnibus: We were going through the books in order, but we kind of tired out on the last one we read (Missing Joseph). They’re enjoyable but too long-winded.
Ditto to everyone that says Dave Robichaux by James Lee Burke. The writing is so beautiful, the plots are brutal.
@zhena gogolia: Rhys and Lithgow, though.
It’s always hard to re-boot something like that, so we’ll see.
Our favorite books (I read out loud to my husband while he cooks) are Colin Dexter’s Morse series. But we’ve read them all! It might be time to start again.
@RedDirtGirl: The thing that always amazes me about Leonard is how many of his books have become movies: Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, the series Justified, in Westerns you have Hombre with Paul Newman and 3:10 to Yuma (the old one with Glenn Ford or the new with Russell Crowe).
There are others I know… wait a minute, the google is my friend: Films based on works by Elmore Leonard. 21 films. They aren’t all good but the source material is.
Go old school and read John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee books!
I don’t get HBO — I’ll have to rely on BJ reports. There are a lot of Perry Mason fans around here.
I adore him. The Big Bounce is a good one, and Unknown Man No. 89.
@Omnes Omnibus: Kid just turned 8. Work is good, esp after Rauner lost his bid for re-election (fuck that guy).
Still cycling, and played basketball with a bunch of school dads last night for the first time in almost 20 years. Sore, but happy.
All best to you, my friend.
I agree that it is tailor-made for this blog, which is why I picked it. You will also learn an amazing amount about dogs, their personality, their sense of smell and how they perceive the world. It is a damn good book. And Cole is an interesting character, although probably more handsome in his private detective persona.
Adult diversion? I searched this thread for XXX and found nothing, so this topic must not be what I thought it was going to be.
@WaterGirl: And sometimes the adult beverage is coffee.
If you are going to mention the fine attributes of Leonard’s writing, I will have to mention the tv series “Justified”, which brought many of them to the small screen. Leonard was very proud of the series and said Raylan was portrayed just as he imagined him. So, highly recommended.
@WaterGirl: Balloon Juice p0rn = grumpy detectives
@BGinCHI: I was up in you parts for a funeral last week. I ran into an old pal who runs “Working Bikes“. It looks really good.
@BGinCHI: Huge Perry Mason fan here. I had not heard about this. I’m excited.
@zhena gogolia: Raymond Burr will always be Perry to me, but I will still give this one a watch. :-)
Travis McGee was my favorite when I was a kid. Living in a houseboat in Florida making money finding things for people sounded pretty good when I was 16.
Ross MacDonald was another detective series writer I read in the day.
Check out Sixty-Four by Hideo Yokoyama. https://www.amazon.com/Six-Four-Novel-Hideo-Yokoyama/dp/1250160006/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=sixty+four+yokoyama&qid=1578762942&s=books&sr=1-1
The protagonist’s daughter has run away from home and it hangs over everything. It was a lot of fun.
I also like the novels by Keigo Higashino, although his protagonists aren’t particularly flawed. Some of his books, like Malice and Under the Midnight Sun don’t really have protagonists, which is an interesting ride as well.
@BGinCHI: I think you nailed it.
Oh, and you can say porn now on the new site, but it might still be more fun to type p0rn.
DH really likes the new Dean Koonce series that features a female detective. Not sure of the name though.ETA The detective is Jane Hawk.
@patrick II: Love John D. McDonnel…
@HRH mistermix, Lord Bombay Sapphire, Duke of Schweppes: My Swedish friends all preferred Branagh. They thought the Swedish actor was a bad fit for the character. I thought that was very funny. I both cases I think it was having known the actor from very different roles.
I think I will make a list of recommendations from this post and put it up under Calling All Jackals in the sidebar. Super casual, nothing formal.
Also, when looking for mysteries to read, don’t forget to check out “Our Authors” in the footer. Some of our authors write mysteries.
@raven: On the South Side. Yeah, we try to donate parts there whenever we can.
How’s the classic city?
Funny you should mention the personal lives subsuming the story line in the books: that didn’t bother me as I want to really know the characters. However, I do agree that it wouldn’t work in the film version.
One of my absolute favorite detective book series is P.D. James’ “Adam Dagliesh” (sp)?
@WaterGirl: Well well, times do change.
In my day…….
@BGinCHI: I would watch anything with Matthew Rhys.
Emma from FL
I like historicals, so the Falco novels, yeah. Then, brother Cadfael. It’s a good portrayal of a good but not innocent man living through a turbulent time in British history. The sister Fidelma novels for a time when women held real power in Ireland, before they abandoned Celtic Christianity for Roman and buggered it up to hell and gone. The Monk novels for Victorian England, with a marvelous character at the center. And my beloved Miss Silver for all things mid-twentieth century England.
@BGinCHI: He cannot be 8!
More handsome than the Adonis of West Virginia? Couldn’t be.
Don’t you know that when they got to the bathing-suit portion of the Mr. Appalachia contest, he was the overall winner? (That is, he won by keeping on his overalls.)
But the real clincher is this: we know that in Lily’s eyes, he is the most beautiful thing in the world.
And a dog’s POV matters.
@Omnes Omnibus: Life. Such a disappointment at times.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Emma from FL:
We must have similar taste. I’ve read every series you named
@BGinCHI: I’m not sure where they are located but it certainly looks positive. Things are good here, I retired and am trying to figure out what’s next.
@WaterGirl: Speaking of, my current project is a historical mystery (starring, among others, Walt Whitman), and let me just say:
plotting a mystery and pulling it off is VERY hard. Big props to all authors who can do that while still creating characters and worlds we want to spend time in.
3rd recommendation for dashiell hammett, everything he wrote is classic
@Dan: I went through the whole thread to see if someone had recommended John D MacDonald’s Travis McGee series! I’ve read them all and still own quite a few. Plus a lot of his non-McGee stand alone mysteries. He was a master at the genre.
@zhena gogolia: He’s mindless entertainment, which when I get done reading some 1000 page tome of history is just what I need.
I just read Chandler’s the Little Sister; I recommend it. Also, the Erast Fandorin series by Boris Akunin (takes place in 1800s Russia) and A Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang are really good.
I am quite into The Frankie Drake Mysteries, a series based around a 1920s private detective agency led by a female WW1 vet and her friends set in 1920s Toronto. This has been compared to the Miss Fisher Mysteries and the Murdoch Mysteries. The show is, to me, quite entertaining and has famous guests like Ernest Hemingway, Marcus Garvey and Agatha Christie
@pamelabrown53: James’s books are beautifully written and plotted. First-class prose.
@patrick II: For some reason I had a hard time with the first season. Knowing the source material as I do I figure it must have been a “time and place” kind of thing and will give it another whirl one of these days.
@Emma from FL:
Just started my first Brother Cadfael mystery. Will let you know if I like it and then feel compelled to devour the series. Do you recommend reading them in order?
Full of piss & vinegar, funny as hell. Loves movies and skateboards and bikes. His new love is the classic Western (after I started The Big Country with him and he was hooked).
@WaterGirl: Hmmmm… Can I say casino?
ETA: I can I can I can!!!
Get busy living.
WHAT??? No naked mopping competition????
@BGinCHI: Looking forward to reading that. I imagine you will be able to do plot the mystery, pull it off, and give us people we want to hang out with.
I love mysteries, but I will say that not every mystery writer is able to pull that off. Am i wrong in thinking that mysteries, as a genre, may be more tolerant of an author who is able to done or the other, but not both?
Ghost of Joe Lieblings Dog
JanWillem van de Wetering wrote a series about two police detectives, Grijpstra and de Gier who work murders in Amsterdam, and their boss, identified only as “the Commissaris”. vdW had studied Zen Buddhism in Japan (and wrote a couple of books about that), and the relationship between the detectives and the Commissaris seems to have some similar harmonics.
Dated a bit (they’re from the 60s and 70s, I think) but I’ve returned to them several times.
@BGinCHI: I see that you are raising him right! 8 is such a great age.
@OzarkHillbilly: I’m pretty sure you can say all the bad words. :-)
Dr. Siri Paiboon by Colin Cotterill
Adrian McKinty Northern Ireland books (not The Chain!)
Any/all Walter Mosely series
Helen Tursten’s inspector Irene Huss series esp. An Elderly Lady is up to No Good.
Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series
@WaterGirl: Tempted to write a long screed here about why I did not care for Tana French’s In the Woods.
Too much detail on main characters that needed a serious edit, and a vague mystery not really paid off.
Reagan. Supply side. Jesse Helms. Yep, sure looks like it.
The second season of Justified was the best and featured one of the great villians in TV history — Mags Bennett the leader of a local criminal clan, played by the great character actor Margo Martindale. As usual with Leonard’s bad guys (or gals) she was complicated.
Emma from FL
@pamelabrown53: yes. Things happen personally to him that are integrated into the storylines. It’s worth it.
@HRH mistermix, Lord Bombay Sapphire, Duke of Schweppes: Bonus in the Branagh version is seeing Tom Hiddleston as the needy, naysaying Magnus, the younger detective.
And if not already mentioned, the Tana French books are very good, but I thought her most recent was full of cardboard characters in service of a larger theme she was trying to explore. It didn’t appeal to me and I skimmed the last 200 pages because I had already figured out the mystery.
Nobody’s mentioned Val McDermid’s “Tony Hill” books yet? Or that they were the source for an awesome tv series, Wire In the Blood? If you like messed-up protagonists, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are right up there.
Since no one’s mentioned him, check out Chester Himes’ novels featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones.
My favorite is Real Cool Killers.
I dare you to read just the opening scene and not marvel at Himes’ ability write an action scene and to capture the Harlem of a certain era.
Also, “Red Herring”, about a private detective – a former member of the Communist Party, veteran of the Spanish Civil War and WW2 – in New Zealand in 1951. You think Poisonville was corrupt?!
@Omnes Omnibus: Kissinger.
Three I’ve liked: Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti series, set in Venice; Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series, set in Sicily; and Charles Williford’s Hoke Mosely series, set in Miami. Back in the ’80’s, I saw a bumpersticker that said ‘Come back to Miami–we weren’t shooting at you!’ This sentiment that would have been right at home in Williford’s writing.
@laura: “Adrian McKinty Northern Ireland books (not The Chain!)”
Yes! A thousand times yes on both counts!
(checks under car for mercury tilt bomb)
I just learned they’re remaking Columbo with Mark Ruffalo in the lead.
What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us?
I’m about 2/3rds through The Dogs of Riga. Had no idea Mankell hated writing that series. Only other authors mentioned that I have read are one by Louise Penny that my parents left behind when they visited once, and Dashiell Hammett. Got lots of reading to do I guess.
How to Steal a Million is starting on FXM Retro. I’ll be back later.
@BGinCHI: I have not read that one. I agree that good characters + good mystery adds a layer of complication; I can only imagine that adding “historical” into the mix makes it exponentially more challenging.
If anyone can do it, you can.
@Reboot: I read all of the Aurelio Zen books, and they are part Italian travelogue, but more than that, they are deeply engaging and very dark portrayals of modern Italy. Author is Michael Dibdin, who taught in Perugia for years before moving to the US and writing the novels. I would love to have known his view of the Amanda Knox saga. He died around 10 years ago.
OK, hyperbole time.
The single greatest detective trilogy:
Jean-Claude Izzo, The Marseilles Trilogy.
I’ve never read anything as good about detection, racism, food, fishing, and an old city. Just superb. All the superlatives.
@Omnes Omnibus: Well done, sir!
@WaterGirl: Thank you!
Time will tell.
Ruth Rendell is the master at plotting. I always give mysteries what I call the “Rendell test” — does it make sense when you work backwards if you read the earlier passages knowing what you know at the end? Very few mysteries pass that test. Hers almost always do.
Recommends: Megan Abbott. Not PI. Female noir. Early books are basically classic period noir told from the POV of the women. More recent are noir about teen girls/young women and how friendship and its secrets can become toxic. She was co-showrunner on the TV adaptation of her novel Dare Me is currently on USA (a Netflix co-production, so it will be there as well at some point).
Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt books: PI. Amazingly original. DeWitt is a follower of Jacques Silette, the world’s greatest detective, whose arcane methods are known only to a small few. They do not follow clues in the traditional sense, merely observing what arrives before them and finding the patterns within, thus solving the crime. Even though you know Silette is Gran’s creation as well, I kept finding myself wanting to jump on the internet to search for more. The esoteric mystery system within the novels, as well as the overpowering memories and PTSD of post-Katrina New Orleans (which Gran lived through) really sets these apart.
Has nobody mentioned Tana French? Who even are you people? Kate Atkinson, as well. The detective novels are fantastic, although she has been a very bad influence on others trying to do the same thing (see the Denise Mina novel disliked above).
And Denise Mina. She was working on a PhD dissertation on mentally ill people who survive outside the psychiatric system. If this interests you, read her books.
Donald Hamilton. Sure he wrote the Matt Helm series, but before that he wrote half a dozen mysteries. Also westerns.
Assignment Murder (aka Assassins Have Starry Eyes; The Steel Mirror; Night Walker; Line of Fire. Heroes tossed into situations out of their depth, gutsy women, interesting plots.
Night Walker is available from Hard Case Crime. Don’t know about the others.
Eric Ambler writes good thrillers. They aren’t really mysteries, I guess.
Ghost of Joe Lieblings Dog
I’m a fan of cool openings; I’ll find a copy …
There was a pulp story whose first sentence was “I dropped to one knee and fired twice,” but I don’t remember much else about it. The opening of Red Harvest (mentioned upthread) is hard to beat, though:
I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit. I didn’t think anything of what he had done to the city’s name. Later I heard men who could manage their r’s give it the same pronunciation. I still didn’t see anything in it but the meaningless sort of humor that used to make richardsnary the thieves’ word for dictionary. A few years later I went to Personville and learned better.
@Feathers: Kate Atkinson is great, though the last one was overstuffed, IMHO. Plots revolving around human trafficking seem to have become trendy. Ugh.
Concur re last Mina being inferior to prior efforts
P.S. Atkinson’s first book, Behind the Scenes at the Museum is how I found her, and it remains one of my favorite modern novels. Deeply affecting.
OK, I see someone mentioned Tana French while I was posting. Please ignore this person.
@BGinCHI: The “vague mystery not really paid off” was the whole point of the thing. Terrible things swoop in and ruin our lives. It wasn’t necessarily evil, just someone careless. Or if it was evil, a mundane sort of evil, that would only cause more trouble if stirred up.
Yes, I like noir.
Okay! Just requested a sample from the first book of the trilogy be sent to my Kindle. Hope it’s as good as it sounds!
Nobody mentioned the Donald Lam / Bertha Cool detective stories, also by Earle Stanley Gardner? I read them in high school, no idea if they’ve stood the test of time.
@zhena gogolia: Great writer all the way around.
I don’t know how she did it.
It’s almost like your mind needs to work a certain way…..
@OzarkHillbilly: “Valdez Is Coming”. A remorseless Burt Lancaster – great film.
Great idea! Also for future movie and movie recommendations too.
@Ghost of Joe Lieblings Dog: The prose sparkles. You’re right there in the idiom and the world from the get-go.
I go back and read those novels every few years to sharpen my language and cut the fat.
Mystery is my go-to genre, along with SF. My faves:
Thomas Perry – best known for his Jane Whitefield series (set in modern times, Jane is a Native American woman who “guides” people in desperate trouble out of danger and into new lives) and Butcher’s Boy (a Mafia hit man written without apology but surprisingly sympathetic – maybe not so surprisingly, as the Mafia has turned on him and the books mostly have him battling people even worse than he is). Perry’s one-offs are also terrific. He does an interesting thing where the character “types” who are the heroes or anti-heroes in one book are the antagonists in another – particularly true of professional hitpersons.
Laurie King – Mostly known for her Mary Russell books (Mary being an orphan who Sherlock Holmes marries after his retirement) but she also wrote the Kate Martinelli series of books, set in modern California and centered around a lesbian SFPD detective. I like the Martinelli books more than the Russell, since Russell is perilously close to a Mary Sue, but they’re all complex and well-written.
Donna Leon – Over 30 books centered around Commissario Guido Brunetti, a detective in Venice. The books are an excellent window into daily Venetian life, the challenges of working for and in a deeply corrupt system, and – especially over the last few – an increasingly melancholy look at how Venice is dying as a real city with real people in favor of existence as a tourist attraction. Leon herself has, I think, recently relocated to Switzerland after living in Venice for 30 years.
Lawrence Block – delightfully subversive series of books about John Keller, a hitman whose hobby is stamp collecting. Hard boiled, unexpected, and very funny.
@BGinCHI: The Big Country. The Donald Hamilton western? A good one!
@Feathers: I get that, but it didn’t hold together for me.
Not saying all mysteries have to be like Agatha C. It wasn’t even really that, but the flaccid character-building.
Different strokes, I know, as most everyone loves that book. I really admire what she did in the overall series, though. An enviable project.
I’m already a little wary.
I don’t really care for morose back stories. However, the cast looks good and I will definitely check it out. I had not previously heard about this upcoming show.
I looked at the Wiki and see that you don’t know much of anything about Mason’s past in the original novels, or even much of what he looks like.
ETA: My mother loves the novels and watched the tv show. I didn’t pay much attention. But I absorbed my mother’s love of reading and love of mystery novels, but read a whole bunch of stuff, but never the Mason novels. Later watched a chunk of the series on a nostalgia cable channel, and liked the nonjudgmental toughness that Raymond Burr brought to the character.
@pamelabrown53: I tried sleeping with them under my pillow but they made my neck ache.
I love that movie. Jean Simmons! Peck’s best film, for me.
And Wyler’s camera…..
@Brachiator: I’ve never read them and am wondering if the show is gonna explore the darker side.
Will give it a try and see if they can pull it off.
Emma from FL
@Ghost of Joe Lieblings Dog:
Yes! Amazing opening paragraph.
My mother liked Mary Higgins Clark.. Her books frustrated me cause she was one writer where the murderer was always the nicest, most sympathetic, the-one-youd-never suspect character. One fourth into the book you could always guess whoddunit. Every damn book.
@JCNZ: I have not seen it. I’ve read the book 3 or 4 times.
Ross Thomas is another good novelist, although hard to find. More of a caper style, not so much detective.
Come sit with me! It took a longtime in a mystery thread to get to one of the greatest mystery writers — men or women — ever.
@Emma from FL: Name of the Rose? A great mystery. As book. Not so much the film.
@BGinCHI: Faithful Place and Broken Harbour are French’s very best efforts, IMHO.
I agree w/ previous posters who were less than enthralled with the latest Tana French–that said, I completely love all of the previous books (which is probably partly why I found this one so disappointing). I’ve also been reading Mo Hayder and Jane Casey. The Hayder gets a bit dark, so I’ve had to alternate with other things.
I really like the ides of a list on the side. Thanks.
Tony Hillerman? Arthur Upfield, dated Australian? I often want a strong sense of place and those two give me that. Georges Simenon and Inspector Maigret?
I need to balance the nonfiction I’m slowed down in, I can see now. We’ve got snow on the ground, a wind chill below zero, and I’m still not over The Cough. A reading weekend it is, then.
I am with you on Thomas Perry. I thought the Jane Whitefield books would make great movies given the right lead. I thought Angie Harman had the look, but maybe not the acting chops at the time.
Another series set in Buffalo NY was Dan Simmons Kurtz trilogy: Hardcase, Hard Freeze, and Hard as Nails. Joe Kurtz is a, well I guess the word is Hard, detective recently released from prison for a murder rap (he did it). It is tough-guy detective fiction brought walking the edge of parody. At the beginning of the second book he gets surrounded and without a gun after a visit to his parole officer. So he takes off his socks, puts coins in them, saps a cop in the men’s room, takes his gun, shoots one guy and throws the other out of a moving car after a confession. Simmons is a fine writer of both detective and SciFi. His Hyperion Cantos SciFi series is excellent.
And no one has mentioned the Hardy Boys! Or Nancy Drew! I vividly remember when I learned what the word “smock” meant reading Nancy Drew. My grandmother b. 1891 told me when I asked. She said she had worn a number of them in her time. Then showed me some pictures.
@Nelle: The Cough has you, rather than you having it. But this too shall pass.
@narya: Seeing the breathless positive reviews was annoying. The entire last half of the book was filled with pointless dialogue and machinations designed solely to make a point, with no organic character development.
@BGinCHI: My wife would have loved that so much. Good casting choice in Ruffalo
@Nelle: I’ll 2nd the Tony Hillerman
@Immanentize: **COUGH**COUGH** Sigh.
Kris Nelscott’s Smokey Dalton series is the best series I read last year. Smokey is a black PI, originally from Memphis, who relocates to Chicago. The series is set in the late 1960s. I devoured them over about 5 months, and was so entranced, I visited the author’s website and asked her when the next one is due (this year).
@CarolPW: Yes. That’s it!
The Archy McNally series? Not exactly heavy reading but lots of fun and I love when someone writes so lovingly about the food and drink. Thats important!
@John: Yeah, if you favor detectives with personal demons, Charlie Parker’s your man.
@patrick II: IMy husband loved “Justified.” I watched two episodes and my southern accent came back, after 50 years, so I had to stop.
Dorothy A. Winsor
So many books, so little time.
@Emma from FL: Do you like Anne Perry books?
I’ve always loved in particular mysteries that are not just whodunits but also give me a panoramic sense of a milieu I know nothing about; along those lines I’d recommend: James McClure, a South African novelist, wrote several mysteries set in 1970s South Africa featuring a pair of detectives, one Afrikaaner and one Bantu (The Steam Pig, Caterpillar Cop, etc.). Likewise, glad someone finally mentioned the Tony Hillerman novels set on the Navaho lands in the Southwest, which convey a real feel for the lives (and the atmosphere) of Native Americans. A superb writer mining the same territory is James Welch (Fool’s Crow, Winter in the Blood, etc. You can’t mention atmosphere without mentioning George Pelecanos–wonderful writing about street life in the DC area. Of course there’s Dick Francis; if he’s a bit too genteel/old school for you, try Mark Daniel (Sleek Bodies) whose portrayals of the British racing scene are much grittier and more hard-edged than Francis’ (and his hero is more than a bit of a louse). James Crumley turned out several memorable, atmospheric, and somewhat depraved mysteries featuring Vietnam vet turned detective C.W. Sughrue, a bit over the top at times but fun.
Here’s a query for the collected wisdom: thinking over mysteries that had an impact on me, I remembered (and almost certainly have, but can’t FIND) a mystery set in 1970s SoHo (NY), whose protagonist is a photographer who becomes a sleuth by virtue of anomalies he discovers in his photos of a desolate SoHo; the book is illustrated with “his” photos, and I can’t for the life of me think of the title or the author. Anyone help? I thought it was mesmerizing when I read it. (They may find it among my effects after they’ve carted me off to the Home, but hoping to locate the title sooner than that!)
@HRH mistermix, Lord Bombay Sapphire, Duke of Schweppes: I’m with you on the Wallander opinion. Swedish is the way to go. And, boy, does it go dark at the end.
@OzarkHillbilly: Have you seen Mr. Majestyk, with Charles Bronson, I think, as the lead?
@RedDirtGirl: Why not both?
@Omnes Omnibus: upvote!
For some reason when someone mentions Tony Hillerman, I think of the Longmire series. Did you ever watch it?
@sab: Watched the whole series, and the dog was brilliant!
@WaterGirl: A list would be wonderful. Very kind of you ?
@pamelabrown53: I read the novels, and I’ve seen most of the series, but can’t seem to do the last few on Netflix.
@Barbara: I know! It just . . . wandered. And, frankly, I loathed the ending.
@LuciaMia: Ha! My aunt loved MHC too, and I thought the same thing about her books. As a young teenager, I really liked the first few I read, and then I caught on to her schtick. I felt the same way about Jodi Picoult when a friend loaned me one of her books- I devoured it, and then borrowed a few more from the library and then realized I was deducing the endings 50 pages in. But hey, they made themselves very good careers with their schtick, so more power to them.
My favorite line from the first Goosebumps movie, was Jack Black (as R.L. Stine) saying, “Every story can be broken down into three parts. The beginning. The middle. And the twist.”
Going through a phase of reading light hearted historical mysteries at the moment. I like Rhys Bowen’s Molly Malone and Her Royal Spyness series. The Molly Malone series is set in turn of the last century New York and features an Irish immigrant trying to make her way as NY’s first female private detective while Her Royal Spyness is set in the 1930’s and features Lady Georgiana, 32nd in line to the throne, who’s always being called upon by cousin Queen Mary to sort out some family scandal. Both heroines come through, though not without having to face situations both humorous and dangerous first.
Also must confess to a weakness for “gentlemen cracksmen” stories. Raffles of course, but also John Creasey’s, The Baron and The Toff series. Currently reading John G. Brandon’s “The Mailbag Robbery ” featuring The Wallflower. Yes, all gentlemen thieves had stupid names during the 1930’s. These are really hard to find but there is a website where you can download issues of Thriller magazine. Same warning as for Sayers, regarding the social attitudes of the time coming through, only worse.
@RedDirtGirl: I’ll wait until the thread is dead, and then I’ll make the list.
@CaseyL: I also love Laurie R King’s books. I think her recasting of Sherlock Holmes to add a detective wife in his later years was brilliant and true to Conan Doyle’s canon, and her Martinelli stories are enjoyable as well.
Also wanted to add a cheer for Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night; never had much use for Lord Peter Wimsey as a protagonist, but GN has Harriet Vane as protagonist, sleuthing at a women’s college (a thinly disguised Shrewsbury College, Oxford), revealing unsuspected (by me, anyway) depth of detail about women’s lives and issues in academia circa 1935 (Sayers herself was one of the first women to get an Oxford degree). There’s a passion and force underlying her writing in Gaudy Night that I don’t remember in any of her other work.
@CarolPW: I just learned they were Austrian, not German.
P.D. James (I worked at her U.S. publisher) was a really great writer and did not disappoint, up until she tried to channel Jane Austen.
@RedDirtGirl: No i haven’t. It’s supposed to be good as Bronson nails it.
Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series.
@pamelabrown53: No, I haven’t watched “TV” in decades. I pick up series as they are recommended by world acclaim, like The Wire, Sopranos, or Game of Thrones. Is it any good?
Major Major Major Major
This is often actually a trick authors use to make you think so.
I gotta give a shout out to Pellacanos. If you aren’t familiar with his books, He did a fair amount of screen writing for The Wire.
Initially. It started getting too dark for me and I’ve yet to watch @ the final 6 episodes.
Funny, you mention Game of Thrones. Years ago, before the HBO series, a group of jackals were singing the praises of the books. As a result, I bought and read the entire series. Hated it! Kept thinking surely it will get better. Everyone likable dies…never did watch the series!
P.S. Gifted the series to my niece. Usually am stingy about giving my books away.
@OzarkHillbilly: I love the “idea” of Longmire (old-school frontier detective colliding with modern ways) and have enjoyed the books; the series is shot entirely in New Mexico in absolutely gorgeous country (the books are set in Montana btw); the series tries a bit hard some of the time, for my taste, but certainly worth a look.
@OzarkHillbilly: Bosch is really good, lot’s of Wire Alums.
@OzarkHillbilly: And Fargo. . .
How is it possible that we are on comment 183 and no one has mentioned Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, the greatest of all the gumshoes?
It’s like forgetting Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot!
Seriously, he’s easily my favorite, and not just because I am now a Boston guy. I was reading him way before moving east. As a couple of bonuses, the audiobooks read by Joe Montagne are pretty great, and despite the fact Parker died maybe 5 years ago, he lives on through the officially licensed Ace Atkins who does a capable job with the hero.
@OzarkHillbilly: Agreed on Hillerman. He was an author I hated to see pass away maybe 5-10 years ago.
Just finished reading The Ghost Detective by Scott William Carter. It’s a weird little book whose protagonist has baggage to fill a boxcar. I’m not much into the paranormal stuff. I tend to like my mysteries to be more grounded in the possible. This was interesting & puzzling enough for me to risk $1.99 (Bookbub) & to go ahead & download the next at a slightly higher price. It is based on the premise that the afterlife is not quite what one has been led to think. Anyway I read it in a day.
The Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo is my current jam.
Jane Casey is writing the most humane mysteries of our era.
Early James Crumley is worth the investment.
“Good People” by Ewart Hutton is offbeat, brutal, nasty; worth it for hardcore readers.
The Quirke mysteries by “Benjamin Black” are essential literature.
I forget the author’s pseudonym, but read “I Was Dora Suarez,” despite it’s unpleasantness.
Cozies are not mysteries; they are Parade magazine crossword puzzles.
I’ve recently come across the Inspector Rutledge series, by Charles Todd, and I’ve enjoyed two novels in it so far. It’s set in England, post-WW I; Rutledge is a Scotland Yard detective who’s hiding a severe case of PTSD–he’s got an unfriendly voice in his head doing a running commentary. It feels slightly like a gimmick at times, but they’re well done.
Traveling through Cornwall, years ago, I stopped in a bookstore and asked for recommendations. W. J. Burley published a long series of novels about Wycliffe, a CID superintendent in that part of England. Solid police procedurals.
A lot of my mystery reading is sparked by TV or movie adaptations, so with that caveat, I’ll second a few suggestions for reading the original sources: I like Martin Beck and Kurt Wallander; Morse is fun, different from the TV series, as is Cadfael. Dalgleish and Cordelia Gray are great, as with most of P. D. James’s work.
And I’ll mention a few disappointments: I’ve watched most of Midsommer Mysteries on TV and tried Caroline Graham’s novel, The Killings at Badger Drift, and found it only okay. Ditto Sara Paretsky’s first V. I. Warshawski novel, Indemnity Only. I tried to re-read Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries, beginning with Fer-de-Lance, only to discover that Archie Goodwin is quite a racist, though perhaps not unusually so for 1934.
@pamelabrown53: That was the thing that so hooked my about GoT. How often do the heroes get the chop? I loved it. I wish they had taken more time with the final season. They kept forcing things to a resolution and too many times it was just over the top.
@raven: Interesting, I hadn’t even heard about it till this morn and didn’t know it was a series. People say Bosch and I think roto-hammers and routers.
The Richard Stark/Parker and Grofield novels. Stark is one of many pseudonyms Donald Westlake used.
@OzarkHillbilly: Bosch makes me think of dishwashers.
No love for Lee Child and Reacher? I agree about Hillerman (though I am not overly impressed by his daughter’s work). Have spent several great moments on the square in Las Vegas, NM – where a lot of the show was shot.
We’ve enjoyed Anthony Horowitz’s two meta-novels with Hawthorne. The Word Is Murder and The Sentence Is Death. They’re not for everybody, though.
No one was willing to challenge him on that event — they knew he would just mop the floor with the competition.
(That joke would be very elusive for a non-native speaker.)
I’ve been enjoying William Kent Kruger’s Cork O’Connor series. Takes place in a small town in the Minnesota North Woods and includes characters from the Ojibwe (Chippewa) tribe. Cork himself is a quarter Ojibwe.
Another good read is the Robert Galbraith’s (JK Rowling) Cormoran Strike series.
How twisted! I say that in a nonjudgmental way.
For the jackals still reading/posting: Mistermix talked about reading Kindle Unlimited mysteries for diversion. I understand his POV but you usually get what you pay for. However, I did read a series by Faith Martin about a female British detective (DI Hillary Green) who lives on a longboat in a canal outside Oxford. Surprisingly enjoyable and decently written. The first book is: Murder on the Oxford Canal.
@Honus: Which reminds me: the Dortmunder series by Donald Westlake still brings me to tears of laughter
Part of the reason Westlake had so many pseudonyms is that his publishers thought that they wouldn’t be able to sell 2-3 books/year from the same author. I’ve read nearly everything he wrote.
@CarolPW: That 3!
@narya: did you ever read the Stark series? He wrote ten or twelve parker books between 65-74 and brought him back after a twenty year hiatus in 97 for six or seven more.
James E Powell
Came to this thread far too late to contribute anything but enthusiastic agreement with the genre and with Chandler, Hammett, Leonard, Mosely, Hillerman, and McKinty.
It’s on Amazon Prime. Bronson playing Bronson very well.
@oldster: Ouch, I asked for that. Well turned sir, well turned.
@pamelabrown53:From a local STL poet:
My dog has the shits, throws up what he eats,
but everyone knows I’m the sick puppy.
The whole piece is great. I bought his booklet. I hope it’s around here somplace.
J R in WV
I thought that was spelled pr0n ?
Speaking of diversions, the North Dakota State University Bison just won their eighth National College Football Championship in nine years in the only true Division 1 Football playoff tournament.
That was my problem with Longmire too. They were trying to live up to the great source material, and the effort showed.
@ixnay: love Las Vegas, NM. Will be there in a little over a week. Want to check out The Castenada. ?
@James E Powell:
I’ve really enjoyed this post. Thus far I’ve ordered 2 books and 2 samples. One Ann Perry book I had already downloaded and decided to switch from Brother Cadfael to it.
Might even finally give a gander to the series Bosch.
@J R in WV: Don’t make me have to choose between you and BGinCHI!
I found a map in a mall bookstore (remember those?) of all of Hillerman’s mystery’s events marked: where bodies were found, the police station, the diner where they often ate, and Canyon de Chelly, etc.
We took a car tour starting in San Francisco, and visited many of the places on the map. We stayed overnight in Tuba City. The scenery is unbelievable and it was great fun to see the places I had imagined for years.
IQ by Joe Ide is an interesting take on the modern detective noir.
@patrick II: That is cool. Does the map have a name I can google and maybe find to buy for myself?
@zhena gogolia: Can’t believe it took 117 comments to mention Ruth Rendell. THE master. Not only plotting, but psychological realism, which figures into the plots.
And she’s a great writer.
She also writes as Barbara Vine when presenting dangerous psychological mischief.
@pamelabrown53: Yeah. I hope somebody saves this thread. I might note the date in my calendar. Great stuff here. Keep me reading for a year at least.
I think the thread was skewed by the initial emphasis on detectives with difficult home lives. So it took a while for P. D. James and Rendell to get mentioned.
@patrick II: Simmons has become something of a nutjob in real life (probably his Wabash College education catching up with him), but I loved that little Buffalo series.
Perfect town for gritty crime.
I lived there for 4 years and it abused me every day.
WaterGirl’s going to save it in some form on the site.
How close to Las Cruces will this trip take you? Remember you were kind enough to meet my spouse and me at one of your haunts in your St. Louis neighborhood? (After the Science March). Well, now we’ve moved from Florida to El Paso, Tx. If there’s a meet-up, I hope to attend…even if it’s in the Santa Fe environs.
My deepest condolences for the loss of your sidekick/traveling companion, Poco.
@dimmsdale: Crumley! Yes.
And James Sallis.
@James E Powell: It’s never too late to contribute. Especially to this thread.
So I wrote a mystery novel recently and finished a second draft a month or so ago. I have no delusions that any publisher will buy it, as it is way, way too long (after editing it’s still about 250,000 words, which is twice as long as the upper limit for first-time authors). I am planning on self-publishing and finding out how to get a couple dozen copies printed so I can give them to friends and family.
Then, when they fail to read it, I can hold it over their heads for the rest of our lives (e.g. “You expect me to help you move when you wouldn’t even read my novel that I toiled on for years? Never darken my door again, traitor!”).
I did talk to a published author who’s worked in the mystery genre about it, and she bought me a cup of coffee to celebrate my achievement. It was interesting comparing notes (it turns out that both of us used Excel to plot out the timelines of various characters to keep everything straight), but one thing she said made me feel a lot better about the fundamental unpublishability of my novel: when I brought up Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow as my idea of a gold standard mystery novel, she said that it would never be publishable today. The book’s length, about 150,000 words, would be an immediate deal-breaker.
@dimmsdale: Also, Fool’s Crow is one of the most underrated American novels. Period.
There’s nothing else like it.
J R in WV
I’ll 3rd the Hillerman series, wonderful plotting, working in the Dine (Navajo) culture of NE AZ, NM and UT. Tribal policemen, researchers, witches and such.
Please, if possible, would love to locate a copy of your map!
@BGinCHI: I’m reading a book by our former mayor, it’s pretty good.
The Hllerman Indian Country map and guide
The link is to Amazon. The map was published too early to include his last books, but still, it was a great trip.
@pamelabrown53: My mom loved her. I couldn’t get into them, I’ll have to try again.
@Anonymous37: So? Self-publish online? How do we find you?
Try Devices and Desires.
@Anonymous37: Check out Belt Publishing’s web site. I think they’ve started a self-pub imprint.
The woman who runs that press is top drawer.
And yes, 250K is about 150K too long, if you’re querying.
@zhena gogolia: True. P.D. James really is as good as Rendell.
And hey, folks: Dorothy Sayers? Daphne du Maurier? Josephine Tey?
Shout out for Peter Robinson (“In a Dry Season”), John Lawton’s WWII books and Philip Kerr (his Berlin trilogy is darned good).
But I gotta stay away from this stuff for now. I’ve got two and a half more Dickens to go!
Just the mention of those names reminds me of the wonderful blaxploitation film “Cotton comes to Harlem”. The film where Redd Foxx debuted what would become Fred Sanford.
You’re reading all of Dickens?
I loved him when I was young, but in recent years I haven’t been able to get through his books. Thackeray, yes, Eliot, yes, Trollope, yes, but Dickens — ??? I don’t know why.
That it was a dragon who cleaned up the joint was the best thing of the final season.
what I enjoy about this community is the varied tastes we all have when it comes to our detective fiction.. so I’ll step off the beaten path a bit into the mystery/fantasy realm and put in a plug for Lois McMaster Bujold and her Penric stories (she also does the mystery/SF genre with the Miles Vorkosigan series). Also Glen Cook’s Garret books, which are a kind of fantasy noir (if you will).
As for the more conventional, I would second Lawrence Block as an author but a different series, I would suggest the Burgler books, as the crime solver is forced to determine who the real criminal is, lest he be on the hook for said crime. Carl Hiaasen is another favorite who blends reality/absurdity/humor with his stories.
as always, ymmv
I see Tony’s daughter updated the map in 2012.
Tony Hillerman’s Landscapes Southwest Map and Guide
@NeenerNeener: I have to say I am a big fan of Val McDermid. I went to see her when she appeared at a local bookstore. She was thrilled with the TV series based on her books. In comparison, I went to an author event with Elizabeth George and she was not at all happy with the Inspector Lynley series.
I’m somewhat relieved to hear that Mankell grew to loathe his own creation. Makes me feel better about this:
I ran into Mankell about 10 years ago in the closing hour of a Swedish to-do. I knew he was going to be in attendance, and my parents – big fans of the Wallander novels – wanted me to be on the lookout and express their admiration for his work.
So he starts to walk past me, and I say “Mr. Mankell?” Perhaps because there had been many toasts that evening and he was tipsy, perhaps because he mistook me for someone consequential (I’m not), perhaps because he was just a friendly guy – for whatever reason, he immediately gave me a warm smile and a handshake.
I then started my piece: your novels are beloved in America, etc. He gave a sort of scowl and without a word walked away.
(A few minutes later Barbara Hendricks came along and she was perfectly lovely, so the evening ended just fine.)
J R in WV
Have always hated Dickens, always. When we rolled into one of his giant, aching, swollen novels in class, I actually bought the Cliff Notes pamphlet summarizing the “plot” and character interaction, because I could not get into the actual book at all. Don’t recall which one it was. But just that once.
@Ghost of Joe Lieblings Dog:
Those are good, or at least they were when I read them years ago.
Also (still) good are Nicolas Freeling’s inspector Van Der Valk novels from the ’60s. Much better than the mediocre TV series. Van de Wetering’s Outsider in Amsterdam is a bit of an homage to Freeling’s Love in Amsterdam.
@sab: I am planning to self-publish online, but it’s going to be a little while (I’m going to set it aside for a couple of months so I can forget as much of it as possible before doing a final edit).
I haven’t even locked down a pen name yet, so I can’t even tell you what to look out for when I do self-publish. But the working title is The Dream of the White Elephant.
@Honus: I did! I think I couldn’t find one or two, but yes. There was one that hinged on theaters/venues no longer taking in cash that was entertaining–meaning stealing from the box office wasn’t A Thing any more.
@patrick II: How charming!
I reread the first two not long ago. For some reason I am in the mood for something simple, dark, and mean.
@sab: I mentioned upthread that I am going to make a list of the recommendations and put it in the sidebar under Calling All Jackals.
Plus, we have a Books & Music category – so if you go to View By Topic in the sidebar, click on Books & Music, and you will find this post.
@Chacal Charles Calthrop:
Not a mysteries fan so much myself but Nero Wolfe’s Rex Stout is a major favorite, I’ve tried to collect all of them, if I remember, I may have actually managed.
If you like historical fiction, check out the Matthew Shardlake mysteries, by CJ Sansom. Set in the Tudor era, with a physically handicapped protagonist, they are full of fascinating information, history, and compelling characters.
@J R in WV: With you on that. Have read nearly all Trollope (and am due for a re-read), but Dickens, feh. CanNOT get into it at all.
I loved the Aurelio Zen novels. The BBC adaptations of a few of them with Rufus Sewell were not bad, but definitely not as good.
@Anonymous37: We have a list of Balloon Juice peeps who are published authors. It’s in the footer – click on Our Authors. When you publish, send me an email and I will add it to the list.
I still enjoy Nero Wolfe, but I don’t think Travis McGee has held up as well.
Among contemporary authors I think the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley are a lot of fun. I also like the Lieutenant Billy Boyle books by James Benn, about an army detective in WWII Europe.
@BGinCHI: I know. There’s no way I could get down to 100,000 words. I could maybe slice out 75,000 and get down to 175,000, but that would still be way too long.
Here’s why it’s as long as it is: I wrote a novel about 10 years ago (it comes in at 108,000 words). Part of this second novel of mine tells the same story as the first novel, but from a different character’s perspective. If I’d already published that first novel (which I don’t think is even worse than my second novel, so I’m not going to do that, no way, no how), I could cut out a lot out of the second.
But as I said, that’d only get me down to 175,000. I will check out that self-publishing site you mentioned, though, and thank you.
@H.E.Wolf: You might like Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series. Ruth has a little baggage of her own — her daughter was fathered by the local police chief who’s married to someone else — but it doesn’t get in the way.
I second all the recommendations for Michael Connelly, especially the recent works Late Show, Dark Sacred Night and Night Fire that feature a new character, detective Renee Ballard, who has been relegated to working the night shift after a run-in with a sexist superior officer.
Sue Grafton’s books have varying degrees of appeal for me, but T is For Trespass and U is For Undertow are interesting character studies. One issue that seems to put people off her books is that she sets them all in the 80s (her detective has to scramble to find a pay phone, or go to the library for information because no cellphones or Google) but I get a kick out of it.
Other writers I like: Kate Atkinson, Val McDermid.
Mystery author here. If you enjoy cozy mysteries (think Agatha Christie meets J.B. Fletcher), especially ones set on tropical islands, check out my Sanibel Island Mystery series. Main character (sleuth) is a female reporter. Also features an enigmatic detective, quirky characters, and a couple of felines. Fun, escapist reads.
@pamelabrown53: hi! Yes remember meeting you when you were here in St. Louis. Your son was here? I won’t get any farther south than Bosque del Apache this year. Cheryl and I were messaging this AM about putting together a BJ meet up in Santa Fe. I’ll also be in Gallup and Farmington. Hope to see you. Weren’t you in Florida a couple of years back? Thanks for reaching out.
@WaterGirl: I shouldn’t note that although I’ve commented here in the past, I’m something of a Balloon Juice irregular, so I’d feel a little weird about taking advantage like that, but hey, if everyone’s cool with it, I will definitely drop a note once I’ve self-published.
My Tony Hillerman connections – I took one of his Journalism classes at UNM in the 70s and it was terrific. He was a kind, interesting, thoughtful professor. In 1989, our local PBS station, KNME, filmed a half hour special of Hillerman interviewing Studs Terkel. I was hired to do the black and white still photography for the show. I arrived early to find Terkel sitting alone in the lobby. I introduced myself and had a 20 minute conversation with him before Hillerman arrived and joined us. Hillerman remembered me and I felt pretty special in the company of two greats. I own quite a few autographed 1st edition Hillerman novels. I’ve just returned from the Tony Hillerman library, a branch of our city library system in my neighborhood. I go there every Saturday whether I need to or not.
I’m not a big novel reader these days, but some of my mystery-liking folks have been enjoying these short mysteries: Cowtown Crime and Cowtown Corpse. (Amazon)
I have read and enjoyed some Tony Hillerman books, which they also liked.
@BGinCHI: I agree with you about Tana French. Her approach in the two works that I’ve read seems to be to have her leading detective emotionally fall apart during the course of the investigation.
@justawriter: You better get the fuck out of here with that football shit, we don’t play dat here! /s
Sounds like you have MHz, or a subset thereof. Lots of good European series, Inspector Montalbano being the gold standard. Inspector Rex is surreal; I can’t decide whether it’s awful or tongue-in-cheek great.
That should be “which I think is even worse than my second novel” etc. There’s a reason why the editing process is taking me so long: I tend to make little goofs like that.
And yes, I will be considering finding a professional editor to give the novel a once-over. This has the added benefit of ensuring that I will lose even more money in the process of self-publishing.
@BGinCHI: Gwen, she’s pretty sick but she’s finishing it up and asked if I’d read it. It’s about a woman in post WW1 Atlanta and I’m sure it’s based on folks in her family.
Twice in this thread alone. That should be “I should note” etc.
Yes. My son lived in St. Louis. Now all have congregated here in El Paso so we relocated from Florida. My spouse is 14 years older and we thought we’d make the move before her health deteriorated too muck.
I’ll try to follow your NM travels and hopefully (if there’s lead time) I’d be willing to meet-up in Santa Fe!
@soup time: I didn’t recognize the name Ann Cleeves but I like Vera and Shetland (although it helps to have subtitles turned on to follow the Scots accents in Shetland). Thanks for identifying her as the author.
Check this out:
I have recommended before (at boring length) Håkan Nesser’s Inspector Van Veeteren series. Set in an unnamed northern European country. Good cast of characters. The TV series on MHz was pretty faithful.
A Ghost To Most
@raven: Waddaya expect from cowards? Jackals are only brave in packs.
@A Ghost To Most: I’d comment but the niners-vikings is starting.
Do you still have my email? If not get it from Cheryl. Thanks.
@Anonymous37: Then you just need to comment more often. :-)
Drop me a line once you’re published.
When was the SoHo novel published?
@Quinerly: Back at ya’. You’re on for the beer you mentioned in your text.
Things are good here, I retired and am trying to figure out what’s next.
Next? May I recommend fishing and sloth? That’s sloth, as in don’t do much at all, lay about and enjoy the time not doing anything.
It may be that my working at physical jobs my entire life and often for way, way too many hours a week has prejudiced my view?
I was looking for something else and was reminded that Peter Høeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow is an excellent mystery. The movie with Julia Ormond also is good.
@Ruckus: I think you are correct.
That last season of the Swedish Wallander is a great treatment of the subject that it is about. (Avoiding spoilers!)
I thought the Branagh Wallander was irritatingly Branagh-centric.
@patrick II: Derek Raymond’s Factory Novels were recently reissued, dark as hell. NYRB series has reissued or newly translated many overlooked noir novels.
Charlie Huston has moved to comic books and TV, but his two series from the 2000s are “simple, dark, and mean” the Hank Thompson books are about a former baseball hotshot who ends up in a life of crime after a career ending injury. The Joe Pitt Casebooks are about a vampire, but the first few, which are about a turf war, are worth the read even if that’s not your sort of thing.
I read it when it came out and liked it very much. I’ll have to see if my library has the DVD of the film.
The Derek Strange novels are excellent.
If you like Wallander, you might also like Arnaldur Indriðason’s Icelandic detective, Erlendur.
Thanx, I will take a look.
@dimmsdale: I will put in a plug for Dorothy Sayers’s essay “Aristotle on Detective Fiction,” collected in a volume called Unpopular Opinions (Gollancz, 1946).
Among other observations, she notes that Aristotle first set forth the heart of the detective writer’s technique: the “right way of telling lies” — that is, to tell the truth in such a way that the reader is deceived about who is really the murderer.
@dexwood: cool. See you soon. Loved that microbrewery we met up on my 2017 trip. Take care.
@Ghost of Joe Lieblings Dog: my library in Philly has an almost complete set of van de Vettering novels and every summer I take out a few and re-read them. Terrific characters.
Late to the party but I love quirky detectives too. Love the Kidd series by John Sandford – Kidd is an artist, a computer genius, and a criminal a la Robin Hood.
Also love Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Detective Carl Morck, who works cold cases at Department Q in Denmark.
Jeez, I think I have a Department Q novel on my Nook that I never read! I liked the others. Just got busy and never got back to it.
@Julia: Love Shardlake novels! I don’t think he’s done anything new in a while…:(
Mike in NC
Underwent open heart surgery late Thursday to correct a congenital mitral valve defect. Surgeon said everything went well but now I need to relearn how to wall. Also can’t drive for a month, so lots of reading in my future.
Interesting. I can see why his stories would be popular though, each story is connected by the main characters but each has a story to tell on it’s own. Also none of the stories are so involved that it’s tiring but also have enough to make it interesting. And each of the characters has a pretty solid place in the stories. So the series builds the characters, especially if you read them in order.
Also like here, not everyone in Russia is/was enthralled with the politics of the day. I’ve known a number of people from Russia and really they aren’t much different than we are. We are so concerned now because the crew supposedly in charge is so corrupt and bad at everything that anything they touch is immediately fucked up.
@Barbara: “….loved her most recent book less.” Spoken like a true appreciative reader.
@Steeplejack (phone): it’s a near perfect mystery story. Lasting memories even after years.
@Mike in NC:
Taking that’s misspelling walk?
Take care of yourself and follow doc orders. As long as the doc isn’t advising you to take up sky diving or deep sea diving.
Best advice I’ve ever followed.
@Steeplejack (phone): Smilla is not marketed as science fiction, but it’s one of the best books about being an alien that I’ve ever read.
@Mike in NC:
Oh, I hope your recovery goes well!
@Mike in NC:
Sending positive energy for your smooth recovery!
@Ghost of Joe Lieblings Dog:
The Gripstra/DeGier stories still stand up very well. I think both Penny and Leon have riffed on, and further developed the old/young partner ideas that vdW presents so well (with Gammache/Beauvoir, and Brunetti/Vianello respectively)
vdW also created a great Japanese detective in “Inspector Sato’s Small Satori”
Mike in NC
@Ruckus: Yes, thanks to all.
Emma from FL
@Immanentize: Agreed. Though the movie has its cruel visual beauty
@H.E.Wolf: Same here, regarding miserable home lives of detectives, but I do have a few. Some really creepy terrible scary stories by Brits that I had to steer away from because they were giving me nightmares.
I really like the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny, and The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.
Then there’s the Longmire series. Usually lots of fun, but last year’s Depth of Winter was brutal, and unlike his usual winter stories there’s no snow but a lot more violence than usual. This year’s book, Land of Wolves, seemed very mild after that.
Emma from FL
@sab: I like Monk. Haven’t tangled with Pitt yet.
@narya: Mo Hader is good, but damn are her stories dark.
@dimmsdale: Longmire is set in Wyoming. In the imaginary county of Absaroka.
Kellye Garrett has written two mysteries about an African American woman in Hollywood who accidentally becomes a sleuth. Hollywood Homicide and Hollywood Ending. Creative and very funny.
@Ajabu: It’s a creature of its time (holy sexism), but that film’s really good. Great performances with the right mix of serious & funny.
@patrick II: Yeah, me too. Got a Navajo Tribal Map, circled all the areas mentioned in the books (towns, dirt roads, mesas, tribal buildings) and visited them all (at least the ones I could get to in a Volkswagen). Immensely rich experience.
@OzarkHillbilly: The map I’m talking about was put out by (I think) the NM Automobile Assn., not affiliated with Hillerman in any way. May be out of print. The Hillerman map Patrick linked to looks terrific!! a must-have!!
@BGinCHI: Yup. Agreed. James Welch was the best.
@Steeplejack (phone): BLIND SIDE by William Bayer!!!! (I knew I’d remember it eventually.) Noir meets the grimy SoHo NYC of the eighties. A romance, a mystery, with photos. I loved it, and if I can’t find it in this dump in the next half-hour, I’ll order another one. (Bayer is very much worth a look too. Terrific writer.) (Crap–looks like Blind Side is out of print but available used. I’d go for the hardcover; you want the photo reproduction as good as possible)
@Wolvesvalley: Yeah, I thought Dorothy Sayers was just a “category” mystery writer until I read Gaudy Night. Exceptional.
Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom are a pair of Swedish writers whose detective protagonist Ewert Grens is grumpy, rumpled, old-guard and a lot of fun; their Cell 8 is set in Stockholm and the American midwest—wonderful riff on how Europeans view the American mania for the death penalty, among other things. Several books in the series, pubbed in the US, I think.
I’ll just add a plug for “Fletch” (the book by Gregory McDonald, not the stupid movie)–another somewhat precedent-breaking (for the time) novel with a decidedly offbeat p.i.
@opiejeanne: Ooops. (still shot in NM, though
Sorry about the mixed fonts, figured the magic Comment thing would fix that. Ah well.
@Dan: Another vote for Travis McGee. Also, Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder mystery series starts good and become great. LB is just generally a great writer; he has 4 – 5 series characters and they are all good and different, some more humorous, some (like Matt Scudder) much darker. Always great dialogue.
@dimmsdale: You probably used text mode where it kept the html that was copied in. Pretty sure that if you used Visual mode, it would have used the normal font.
@dimmsdale: Yes, and it’s funny but when I watched the very first Longmire, I said, “That looks like New Mexico.”
It’s not like I had spent much time in either state, a few days several years ago, but I just had this idea in my head about what each state looked like.
Two summers ago we attended Longmire Days in Buffalo, WY, some fun, then toured around the state for a while, stayed in Grand Teton for a couple of days, a few more in Yellowstone. We crossed the Great Divide so many times I finally lost count. Drove through Wind River Canyon on the way to the Grand Tetons and marveled at the imagination and tenacity it took to build that road. There wasn’t even a trail on that side of the river, just a rock face.
@WaterGirl: First off, thanks for your tireless efforts in evolving the website. I compiled the reply in a blank email as I went down the thread; some pasted back in as Times Roman so I tried to paste the response back in as “paste and match style” but it scrubbed the links. My clumsiness aside, I’m really amazed at how well the site works now. Thank you!
@dimmsdale: It’s so kind of you to say that! Thank you so much.
If you like mysteries/procedurals set largely in the great outdoors, such as the Longmire and Cork O’Connor series already mentioned, others are Paul Doiron’s series about Mike Bowditch, a game warden in Maine; Steve Hamilton’s PI Alex McKnight series, set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; and Keith McCafferty’s Montana fly-fishing series centered on PI/artist Sean Stranahan.
@Mike in NC:
Glad you made it through and hope your recovery is a smooth one.
@patrick II: Thanx! A trip for me and my wife. I’ll love it and she’ll say, “Whatever, Honey.”
@Dorothy A. Winsor: me too…sisters in crime, I guess
@Dorothy A. Winsor:
Make sure to check out the newer version from his daughter at the bottom of the Amazon page.
@Mike in NC: good luck.
Draft of the mystery recommendations is up under Calling All Jackals.
@patrick II: I bookmarked them both. Hopefully I remember they are different. A great trip in the makings either way. Here’s to Jim Chee.
You will love it. Have a good time.
Lately I’ve been reading Martin Walker’s Bruno series, set in the Perigord region of France – great background on my favorite province and nice character development…not much noir though
@Heidi Mom: Thanks for the recommendations. The Paul Doiron novels appeal to me especially; I always thought there’d be some good mystery fodder in the lives of game wardens; nice to see somebody bringing that milieu to light.
I know the thread is dead, but whatever. I didn’t have a free hand until now, so I’ll just add these here:
Lots of great suggestions! I’ll toss out a few I don’t think have been mentioned.
Bartholomew Gill’s Detective Peter McGarr. Set mostly in Dublin. Good writing, interesting stories.
R. Austin Freeman’s Dr. Thorndyke series. The mysteries are usually easy to figure and there is a fair amount of the casual racism of the time, but, they do give a nice sense of England back then.
The Lawrence Sanders Edward X. Delaney series. Sanders was extremely popular back in the day, but, I rarely see him mentioned in discussions like these. Solid procedurals, smooth reads. It’ll be three in the morning before you know it, reading them.
Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series. Quick reads.
G.M. Ford’s Leo Waterman series. Nicely written with a fairly humorous style. His Frank Corso series is darker.
Robert Tanenbaum’s Butch Carp series. Karp is a D.A. in NYC. As the series progresses, he gets married and has kids and the family is rather unusual. The books were actually ghost written by a relative of his, who finally got fed up with the lack of recognition and money. Tanenbaum wrote the last couple three books in the series and they are awful.
Emma Latham’s John Putman Thatcher series. Thatcher is a VP at the Sloan Guaranty Trust but always gets dragged into murder cases. Another series with a light, humorous touch.
M. C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series. He is a constable in the Scottish highlands and just his name gives you a sense of what to expect.
Jonathan Gash’s Lovejoy series. Lovejoy is a pretty unscrupulous antique dealer who has a sixth sense about ferreting out fake antiques from genuine. Lots of interesting tidbits about antiques and fake antiques. The series runs out of steam and that last 4 or 5 books aren’t very good.
John Dickson Carr. Master of the locked room mystery. He has several series with several main characters. Dr. Gideon Fell is probably the best known. Carr’s writing tends to be somewhat on the didactic side with longish discussions of just what a locked room mystery is and how to describe one without cheating the reader. He can write some nice, moody immersive scenes, as well.
I’ll check for additions in the morning, and even the late ones will be included in the list.
@dimmsdale: Just remembered another game warden mystery, this one set in VT, that I read recently and loved: A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier. U.S. Game Warden Troy Walker has a Newfie-mix search and rescue dog named Susie Bear. Former Army MP Mercy Carr has a retired bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois named Elvis. She has no authority to investigate anything, but you know how that goes. A friend read this and said she didn’t like it because it was “too doggy”–high praise, to me. And, because I checked these details on Amazon, I learned that there’s now a sequel called Blind Search, so thank you, Dimmsdale!
Good morning everyone. Is it very common to have thread with a 24-hour lifespan, as this one has? I really need to get to bed. I’ve been awake for all but 2 of them! Catch you folks later.
@WaterGirl: Two women authors I learned about in my 20’s: Sarah Caudwell’s very British barrister mysteries from the ’80’s – Thus was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way to Hades, and The Sirens Sang of Murder. And Carolyn Heilbrun, a Columbia scholar who wrote academic mysteries under the name Amanda Cross. Her lead was Kate Fansler, who stumbled into campus crimes and intrigue – Death in a Tenured Position, is one title I can remember.
I’m pretty sure I read that one decades ago. Great title.
The Thread That Will Not (Yet) die–
@Heidi Mom: Will be tracking (As Adam would say). Thanks!
The 70s were a time of cultural upheaval, blah-blah-blah, and at the time I was working at a paperback publisher as an editorial flunkie. Typing cover letters, answering phones, screening out obvious over-the-transom crap manuscripts. The editors I worked for were courted vigorously by hardcover publishers who wanted to sell paperback rights. There was a flood of free hardcovers at all times, and a “discard” shelf where the losers went. I found the first Spenser novel there, and went to my editors and said “How are you not bidding on this? It’s fantastic!” And it was–a complete departure from the usual hard-boiled detective fiction America had lived with since the pulp magazines of the 30s. Blew me away. I think Robert Parker was on the ground floor of the idiosyncratic, unique-character-driven mysteries that are so common nowadays, and if he didn’t invent that genre, he sure was one of the primary architects. Still have that skinny little hardcover around here somewhere; wish I could convey what a breath of fresh air he was back then, but he seemed like a real sea-change, and as formulaic as his later stuff got to be, he was.
I’m SO sorry–can’t let the thread end without mentioning K.C. Constantine–his protagonist, Mario Balzic, is a small-town chief of police in central PA, and his books are full of gritty working-class detail. It’s a town where everybody knows everybody, but doesn’t necessarily like or TRUST everybody. Easy pace, terrific observation of a time and a place, utterly believable (no ‘convenient’ plot machinations here!) and a flavor of compassion running through all his books. (Constantine was the pen name for a writing professor at a small PA college, by the way.)
@dimmsdale: That’s a great story! You could almost set a mystery in that office…..
@dimmsdale: This seems like a lovely Sunday thread, to me.
@sdhays: This is a great list, and I’m sorry to say I don’t know these books.
They also remind me of the terrific Japanese and Korean investigation films I love, such as Bong Joon-Ho’s Memories of Murder and Lee Chang-dong’s Burning.
@BGinCHI: Yeah, well, I’m VERY old.
Do these movies come with subtitles by any chance? I have a pile of library DVDs to go thru, but these sound like good “next” candidates.
Burning is on Netflix, but I’m not sure where to find Memories of Murder right now. It’s no longer on Amazon Prime.
The former is a simmering, deep look into strange relationship, beautifully made. I loved it.
The latter is one of the most interesting crime/investigation films I’ve ever seen. There’s no other film I can think of with the kind of characters it constructs. A must-see.
Park Chan-wook‘s The Handmaiden also well worth a watch.
@BGinCHI: sorry, I see your reply was to SDHayes. Oops. Did check the local library and the one Joon-Ho DVD they have, has 59 borrowers waiting for ONE poor no-doubt-battered dvd. Too bad.
@pamelabrown53: I agree. Add in J K Rowling’s adult mysteries—the Cormoran Strike series-under pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. And Donna Leon’s mysteries set in Venice
Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian
May I humbly suggest my own mystery, Same River Twice? (Janet Poland) The main character doesn’t quite match Rebus and Bosch for noir complications, but she’s a recluse for extremely good reasons. It’s on Amazon.
Best thread, EVAH!
yes! Could be a whole subtopic …
@Aleta: Korean cinema in particular right now is absolutely killing it (so to speak). Also a lot of excellent Japanese and Chinese films, though I’m less familiar with them.
Not to say Japan hasn’t been producing great film for a long time, but it seems to me Korea is having a particularly good run of films, relatively speaking.
@RedDirtGirl: @Aleta: This thread has been a wonderful alternative to all the heat in some of the other threads.
I didn’t include the back-and-forth discussions, but I did get *all the book recs into a spreadsheet.
You can find it in the sidebar under Calling All Jackals.
*all the ones that were there last night. tomorrow i’ll add the ones that have come in since then.
@J R in WV: Cliff Notes for Dickens in High School? Had to be Great Expectations. I loathed that book.
@RedDirtGirl: I always forget to say that on mobile devices, the stuff from the sidebar is at the bottom, after all the comments. So sorry!