It is my pleasure to host Jaclyn Qua-Hiansen- fellow blogger, Twitter fiend, cat lover and mystery devotee – on the blog today. Jaclyn and I have bonded over our mutual love for Dame Christie, as well as the stylings of Rankin, Leon and many others. Our conversations have included the role of the cat in the cosy mystery, and how much alcohol is really consumed Leon and Walker’s European police procedurals. Her post today will hopefully give you some tips on where to start if you are just entering the world of mystery writing, or new-to-you authors if you already have some favourites. Jaclyn writes at Literary Treats, and may be found on Twitter @.
What makes you fall in love with a series? Is it the characters, the narrative voice, or the story arc that matters most? Certainly, it’ll be a combination of the three, but for me at least, I find that it’s the characters who matter most. I read a lot of mysteries, and I enjoy a lot of mystery series, but for me to actually get really excited about a new book in a series, I must have fallen in love with the characters, and must therefore be longing to return to their world.
If you happen to be looking for a new mystery series to hook you in, here are five of my favourites:
Okay, I’ll be honest, anything by Agatha Christie. I find Poirot’s fastidiousness and inflated sense of worth hilarious, and I marvel at the supreme power of his “little grey cells.” It took me a bit longer to warm up to Marple, but I love how her doddering persona conceals a razor sharp mind.
Both series have fantastic TV adaptations; David Suchet, quite simply, is Poirot, and while Marple has been performed by several actresses, I have a soft spot for Geraldine McEwan’s rather mischievous take on the character.
Tip: If you love the Poirot and Marple TV shows, I highly recommend Midsomer Murders, based on the novels by Caroline Graham. I’m not too big a fan of the novels, but I think the warmth and chemistry the actors bring to the screen just add a whole new level of magic.
Guido Brunetti by Donna Leon
Brunetti is, by far, my detective crush. A charming, honourable family man who despises the corruption in the police force and the Venetian government, Brunetti tracks down bad guys by day, goes to the opera at night, and somehow manages to go home every lunchtime for a wonderful meal with his family. I once described Leon’s books as a combination of “foodie travelogue,” classical literature and Italian politics, but the best part by far is time spent with Brunetti.
The Brunetti series also highlights how important the secondary characters are. I love Brunetti’s co-worker Signorina Elletra, a computer whiz and hacker extraordinaire whom Brunetti once describes as “much, much, too, very” (swoon!), and I also love Brunetti’s wife Paola, who prepares the most delicious meals that would make Hannah Gruen swoon.
Tip: If you love Brunetti, try the Bruno, Chief of Police series by Martin Walker. I didn’t get quite as hooked into the series as I did with Brunetti, but I love the quaint, rural setting and the quiet meals over bottles of good wine.
Goldy Schulz by Diane Mott Davidson
I love cozy mysteries and I love food, so really a cozy mystery series about a caterer who whips up delicious meals when stressed is right up my alley. I wasn’t a fan of the most recent book in the series, but I highly recommend practically every other book before that. There’s a warmth and humour that infuses the Goldy Schulz mysteries, and I will always have a soft spot for this series.
I also love how interwoven Goldy’s personal life is with the mysteries. I love watching her relationship with her husband Tom develop (we even see how it begins early in the series!) and watching her son Arch grow from a little boy into a rather geeky teenager who loves to fence. The food is a highlight as well, and Davidson recently released Goldy’s Cookbook, filled with recipe highlights.
Tip: If you like cozy mysteries, I’d also recommend the Jaine Austen series by Laura Levine. Jaine is a struggling copywriter best known for her Toiletmasters jingle, and she lives with her cat Prozac. The mysteries are hilarious and the subplots with her dysfunctional family are icing on the cake.
Logan McRae by Stuart MacBride
If you prefer your mysteries a bit darker and more twisted, you can’t go wrong with Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae series. The mysteries themselves involve truly horrific crimes, and MacBride doesn’t shy away from gory details. But MacBride’s writing is razor sharp, and his humour just crackles on the page. The interactions between McRae and his boss DCI Steele are hilarious, and somehow MacBride manages to make Steele lovable despite being in so many ways the boss from hell.
If you ever have the opportunity to meet MacBride in person, I’d also highly recommend it. He’s absolutely hilarious and charming in person, and meeting him is still among one of my favourite author encounters ever.
Tip: If you like dark and twisty, you also can’t go wrong with Val McDermid’s books, particularly her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series. Like MacBride, she is absolutely charming in person, but I remember reading The Mermaids Singing as a teenager and getting nightmares.
John Rebus by Ian Rankin
The John Rebus books are probably my favourite police procedural. A hard drinking, curmudgeonly man, Rebus has screwed up his personal/family life, and therefore lives to fight the bad guys he encounters at work. His thirst for justice usually leads him to go rogue, and his utter disregard for rules makes him the quintessential bad boy detective.
I especially love the mentor/mentee relationship he has with his co-worker Siobhan Clarke, and I love watching her character develop over the series.
Tip: If you like hard-hitting police procedurals, I highly recommend Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Parker’s writing is a bit looser and more irreverent than Rankin’s, and his cast of characters are just pure entertainment.