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lady narcissa

Mysteries: Cosy, Cats, Capers, Historical, Medical, Procedural and everything in between

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Ever since I was a tween and discovered the Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton and Trixie Belden girl detective series, I have been a huge fan of mysteries.  As a teen I graduated to my grandma's Agatha Christie collection and then onto P.D. James and then basically any book that a PBS Mystery series was based on in the 1980s.  And that was just the beginning.  I've always gone through phases with certain genres but mysteries have remained a constant for me.  How about you?  Any favorites?  I'm always looking for new-to-me mysteries.  I will probably pass on the cat mysteries, however :)

Current series and authors I am enjoying now...

C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series - Tudor England historical

C.S Harris' Sebastian St. Cyr series - Regency England historical

J.K. Rowling...aka Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike series - contemporary England

Anne Cleves - contemporary mysteries in the North East of England and the Shetland Islands

Peter May - contemporary mysteries set in various locations but his Lewis Island trilogy is a stand out

 

Some old favorites that I never tire of rereading...

Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody Victorian era Egyptian archeology series

Elizabeth Peter's Vicky Bliss Art Historian with a side of the dashing John Smythe art thief series.

Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar contemporary Inns of Court series

And of course, Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie.

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I too enjoy a steady diet of the mysterious.  I am a total John Connolly junkie, but I also love the following authors.

Tana French - Dublin Murder Squad plus standalones.

Gillian Flynn - All standalones.

Ian Rankin - John Rebus books, set mostly in Edinburgh.

James Lee Burke - Dave Robicheaux books, set mostly in Louisiana.

William Kent Krueger - Cork O'Connor books, set mostly in Minnesota.

Cathi Unsworth - Standalones set in England.

Michael Connelly - Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer books, plus standalones, set in Los Angeles.

Jonathan Kellerman - Alex Delaware/Milo Sturgis books, set in Los Angeles.

 

I just bought two new books by authors I haven't read.

Denise Mina - Garnethill, set I think in Scotland.

Asa Larsson - Sun Storm, set I think in Sweden.

We'll see.

 

 

 

 

 

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Nowadays, I read less than I used to.

I still love P. D. James and C. J. Sansom, though.

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6 hours ago, Inkdaub said:

I just bought two new books by authors I haven't read.

Denise Mina - Garnethill, set I think in Scotland.

Asa Larsson - Sun Storm, set I think in Sweden.

Oh come back and report after you've read them.  I haven't heard of either.  I picked up a Swedish mystery and I believe a Norwegian mystery that are both new to me authors and series - the names of which I cannot remember as they are at home - but which seemed interesting.  And I'd like to read more mysteries that take place in places other than the US and the UK.

You mentioned Rankin, I read one of his and really enjoyed it.  They are just on the pricey end in the US.  I share mysteries with my mom so I always purchase physical copies and it ends up being cheaper to order them from the UK amazon then getting them in the US.  As soon as we finish the Anne Cleves series we will probably move onto these.

I believe I have the first Tana French Dublin Murder Squad.  I need to give that one a go.

1 hour ago, Rorshach said:

I still love P. D. James and C. J. Sansom, though.

Did you make it through the last Sansom?  It was perhaps just slightly more than I ever wanted to know about Kett's Rebellion but I enjoyed it.  I hope he is still able to continue writing despite his cancer.

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I also enjoy a good mystery and have tried most of those authors.

A few UK based suggestions you might also like, given that list:

  • Josephine Tey: pseudonym under which she wrote a handful of miscellaneous golden age mysteries.
  • Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: cosyish contemporary London based police procedural series (Inspector Slider).
  • Reginald Hill: Northern England police procedural series written about a generation ago.
  • Possibly also Peter Lovesey, Ruth Rendell, Ngaio Marsh.

 

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I’m a big crime/thriller/mystery fan.  I have mixed feelings about this thread because I’m sure I’ll have to check out some recs and already I must have literally hundreds of unread crime books filling up my kindle and bookshelves (plus I just found out CJ Sansom has cancer!)

My absolute favourite is Boris Akunin, a megastar in Russia (like JK Rowling level), he wrote the Fandorin series, very funny, clever books, all deliberately with a different kind of feel to explore different genres within crime fiction and with historical Russian literary overtones.  One particular novel (in a different series) Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk (about a nun solving the mystery of a miracle on a remote island) is one of the best mystery stories I ever read.

Otherwise, if you like golden age, Margery Allingham writes these old fashioned thrillers with a modern sensibility that makes even Sayers look quaint.  The Inspector McClean series by James Oswald is a lot like Rankin but with a hint of the fantastical underpinning it.  Peter James is pretty good, Ragnor Jonasson, Belinda Bauer, Adrian McKinty, Tana French, already mentioned but is fantastic.

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17 hours ago, lady narcissa said:

As a teen I graduated to my grandma's Agatha Christie collection

I inherited my grandmother's collection a while back. I mostly read SF/F, but I've been slowly working my way through the Christies. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a highlight so far.

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4 hours ago, A wilding said:

A few UK based suggestions you might also like, given that list:

  • Josephine Tey: pseudonym under which she wrote a handful of miscellaneous golden age mysteries.
  • Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: cosyish contemporary London based police procedural series (Inspector Slider).
  • Reginald Hill: Northern England police procedural series written about a generation ago.
  • Possibly also Peter Lovesey, Ruth Rendell, Ngaio Marsh.

 

I've read and enjoyed a few Josephine Tey's but I've a few more to go.  Ruth Rendell I've tried and enjoyed a few.  The others are all new to me so that is great!

3 hours ago, john said:

I’m a big crime/thriller/mystery fan.  I have mixed feelings about this thread because I’m sure I’ll have to check out some recs and already I must have literally hundreds of unread crime books filling up my kindle and bookshelves (plus I just found out CJ Sansom has cancer!)

Ha ha yes this is a problem for me too.  I have a ton of books on my TBR pile but I am still greedy to learn of and accumulate more.  Lots of new-to-me suggestions here!  Shall for sure check out the Boris Akunin one.

And regarding Sansom, yeah he I think is in remission currently but cancer is what greatly delayed his most recent book.  At one point he feared he would die before he finished it and sounds like he went into great depression over this which delayed it even further.  He thinks he has another idea for a next one but wants to be more detached from it and wants it to be shorter in case his cancer comes back because he can't handle the idea of not finishing a story he starts.  There was an interview he did in conjunction with the release of his last book that is about an hour long and interesting that I will hunt up in case any other Sansom fans are interested. 

2 hours ago, felice said:

I inherited my grandmother's collection a while back. I mostly read SF/F, but I've been slowly working my way through the Christies. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a highlight so far.

Christie is just so timeless.  Throughout her books she's got these observations on people that even though they were written decades ago could be written today.  People and human nature doesn't change and her books reflect this.  I enjoyed them a lot as a teen but I really enjoy them now.  And I better appreciate things in them now that I missed back then.  I no longer have my paperback collection as I got rid of them in a misguided I'll never reread these again period in my 20s but I'm slowing acquiring them in ebook format now.  amazon has them on offer every now and then for $1.99 so I scope them up when they do. 

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1 hour ago, lady narcissa said:

And regarding Sansom, yeah he I think is in remission currently but cancer is what greatly delayed his most recent book.  At one point he feared he would die before he finished it and sounds like he went into great depression over this which delayed it even further.  He thinks he has another idea for a next one but wants to be more detached from it and wants it to be shorter in case his cancer comes back because he can't handle the idea of not finishing a story he starts.  There was an interview he did in conjunction with the release of his last book that is about an hour long and interesting that I will hunt up in case any other Sansom fans are interested. 

Ok, didn’t know that.  That’s too bad.  Although I read as much crime fiction as spec fiction, it doesn’t bring out my fandom side as much so I don’t tend to read around behind the scenes, from reading his Wiki now I also just found out he was Scottish!

Sansom is really a gift to any fan of crime and fantasy cause he gets across so well the absolutely alien landscape of Tudor England.

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3 hours ago, john said:

Although I read as much crime fiction as spec fiction, it doesn’t bring out my fandom side as much so I don’t tend to read around behind the scenes, from reading his Wiki now I also just found out he was Scottish!

I would not normally know so much about him but it was only because of the lack of information for 4 years about the next book that sent me hunting down every little corner of the internet every 6 months or so desperate for an update.  I must have just looked right before Tombland was announced because I didn't find anything last year and then when I looked again this winter, it was already out!

I was going to link the video of the interview Sansom gave for the release of Tombland whilst in Norwich Cathedral but sadly they've made it password protected.  Too bad, it was really interesting as he talked about his research and various characters and events in the story as well as other things Tudor such as Elizabeth and his admiration for Catherine Parr.

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14 hours ago, lady narcissa said:

Did you make it through the last Sansom?  It was perhaps just slightly more than I ever wanted to know about Kett's Rebellion but I enjoyed it.  I hope he is still able to continue writing despite his cancer.

I did.

All in all, it wasn't his best, I think - too much rebellion and not enough mystery, I thought. However, I knew nothing about the rebellion beforehand (I may have a master's degree in history, but being neither English nor medieval in my primary interests, I know very little about that period altogheter), so in isolation it was interesting - but I would perhaps prefer a monograph to learn about it :)

I hope he'll be able to continue writing, though. The book being not his best still means it's very good.

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Great thread.  I'll be mining this for recommendations.

I do enjoy detective/crime/mystery novels, although with some specific preferences.  Anything with a thriller/conspiracy plot feels too cliche, improbable and by the numbers.  Some mysteries are too twee, with prose and characters that are more comfortable than engaging.  I also find that some US crime novels are too focused on serial killers locked in a personal battle with the detective, which becomes too narrow and tips slightly into the horror genre.  I generally find that UK authors have better style of prose in this genre.

Agatha Christie is the OG for me, and I really enjoyed them around ages 10-12 but I would not reread them now.  Rowling/Galbraith's series is pretty good, even if it leans too heavily on a forced romance arc.  Beyond that I have sampled several over the last few years.  Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole series is pretty good so far (Scandinavian noir), Boris Akunin made only a so-so impression, Anthony Horowitz writes meta mysteries that are both a mystery novel and about mystery novels as a genre, Kevin Wignall had good characterization, Mike Carey's Felix Castor series (urban fantasy mysteries) is good.  A lot of the others blend together and don't stand out in my memory.

I also enjoy a humorous twist on mysteries.  The Mystery Man series by Colin Bateman was very good, and the Dublin Trilogy by Caoimh McDonnell was good too.

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1 hour ago, Iskaral Pust said:

Great thread.  I'll be mining this for recommendations.

I do enjoy detective/crime/mystery novels, although with some specific preferences.  Anything with a thriller/conspiracy plot feels too cliche, improbable and by the numbers.  Some mysteries are too twee, with prose and characters that are more comfortable than engaging.  I also find that some US crime novels are too focused on serial killers locked in a personal battle with the detective, which becomes too narrow and tips slightly into the horror genre.  I generally find that UK authors have better style of prose in this genre.

Agatha Christie is the OG for me, and I really enjoyed them around ages 10-12 but I would not reread them now.  Rowling/Galbraith's series is pretty good, even if it leans too heavily on a forced romance arc.  Beyond that I have sampled several over the last few years.  Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole series is pretty good so far (Scandinavian noir), Boris Akunin made only a so-so impression, Anthony Horowitz writes meta mysteries that are both a mystery novel and about mystery novels as a genre, Kevin Wignall had good characterization, Mike Carey's Felix Castor series (urban fantasy mysteries) is good.  A lot of the others blend together and don't stand out in my memory.

I also enjoy a humorous twist on mysteries.  The Mystery Man series by Colin Bateman was very good, and the Dublin Trilogy by Caoimh McDonnell was good too.

Not sure if it will be your preference, but for Scandinavian social realism more than noir, there is Henning Mankell and his Wallander books.

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6 minutes ago, Rorshach said:

Not sure if it will be your preference, but for Scandinavian social realism more than noir, there is Henning Mankell and his Wallander books.

Thanks.  I watched a couple of episodes of Wallander (on Netflix?) and liked the story and character, but also found him a bit too gloomy.  I don't know if the books will be the same but there were many long scenes of Kenneth Branagh being depressed about his marriage, his father, etc.

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11 minutes ago, Iskaral Pust said:

Thanks.  I watched a couple of episodes of Wallander (on Netflix?) and liked the story and character, but also found him a bit too gloomy.  I don't know if the books will be the same but there were many long scenes of Kenneth Branagh being depressed about his marriage, his father, etc.

Wallander is a rather gloomy guy, true. Not watched the Netflix version, so I can't comment on how it is relative to the books, but he is not very upbeat..

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Posted (edited)

I'm interested in historical mysteries, nothing from 'recent' history though. ;)

Any rec's of ancient/medieval historical mysteries are welcome.A few of my friends have rec'd these to me, are they any good? Which one's are worth reading?

Ellis Peters's Cadfael Chronicles
https://www.goodreads.com/series/42167-chronicles-of-brother-cadfael

Lindsey Davis's Falco series
https://www.goodreads.com/series/42173-marcus-didius-falco

John Maddox Roberts's SPQR series
https://www.goodreads.com/series/51042-spqr

Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa
https://www.goodreads.com/series/41141-roma-sub-rosa

Paul Doherty's Hugh Corbett Series
https://www.goodreads.com/series/41039-hugh-corbett

Paul Doherty's Brother Athelstan Series
https://www.goodreads.com/series/41412-the-sorrowful-mysteries-of-brother-athelstan

Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma mysteries
https://www.goodreads.com/series/41999-sister-fidelma

Susanna Gregory's Matthew Bartholomew series
https://www.goodreads.com/series/40928-matthew-bartholomew

Edited by AncalagonTheBlack

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Posted (edited)

An excellent thread with a lot of very interesting authors - thank you!  Others you might add to your list include the following.

Michael Pearce wrote two very fine period mystery series.

The Mamur Zapt books feature a Welsh chief of secret police in Cairo at the turn of the century during the British administration of Egypt.  Excellent characterizations and plot, sumptuous descriptions of Egypt under the khedive, and a fair bit of romance.

A Dead Man in... books cover the pre-WWI European scene, with a Scotland Yard etective sent by the British Foreign office to investigate deaths in foreign cities.  Again Pearce's characters are vivid and his place descriptions make the cities a character as well.

Margery Allingham was a stylist whose Albert Campion mysteries rival Dorothy Sayers.  Lug the former-thief-and-now-butler by himself is worth the price of admission.

Lawrence Block wrote a series of murder mysteries set in the 1970s and 1980s in New York City featuring the cat thief and bookstore owner Bernie Rhodenbarr where once again the city is a character as much as any of the human actors.

Ernest Bramah's stories of the blind detective Max Carrados outsold the Sherlock Holmes stories at the time of their publication, although they did not receive the popular movie treatments that kept them in the public eye as A.C. Doyle's did.  The late Andy Minter's readings of four of the stories are delightful.

John Maddox Roberts was an excellent writer in the science fiction and fantasy genres who never broke through to popularity the way I thought he should, but his SPQR historical mysteries set in the close of Republican Rome have political intrigue, romance, high personal and national stakes, the whole shooting match.

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries are a timeless wonder, as Wolfe and his all-action secretary Archie Goodwin solve crime in New York City throughout the twentieth century.  The audio books read by Michael Pritchard are the gold standard for audio book readers.  Again, the plot details are excellent, and mid-century New York City is a sort of character in and of itself.

E.W. Hornung's Raffles is an early example of the tortured soul who must do what he does not wish to do, and also has some curious elements of mystery stories without being actual mysteries, probably because of the English Country House setting.

Science Fiction Grand Master Jack Vance wrote several very good mysteries set in California as Ellery Queen.  I recommend A Room to Die In and The Madman Theory to your attention, and of course there is the classic award-winning Bad Ronald.

Eric Ambler wrote a group of high quality socialist mystery adventure stories  that are often described as spy novels.  Don't let that fool you, they are mysteries set in central Europe with lots of critical views on the Cold War.

Hugh Laurie, aka Dr. House to Americans or Bertie Wooster to the rest of the world, wrote The Gun Seller.  If you like Ian Rankin, don't sleep on this one.

Georgette Heyer wrote romances posing as mysteries such as Why Shoot a Butler? starting during the Great Depression and set throughout English history.

Marion Chesney writing as M.C. Beaton wrote a large number of humorous British mysteries set in the Cotswolds (Agatha Raisin) and the Highlands (Hamish MacBeth).  These were realized as TV shows on Sky1 and the BBC, showing their popularity.  She also wrote an Edwardian mystery series about Lady Rose Summer, but those are harder to find.

Edited by Wilbur

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I've been tempted to try out Fred Vargas and Louise Penny due to the settings. Been looking for a good Australian mystery/crime thriller too.

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I also really like Tana French.  She is dark, really dark.  But not crazy bloody or gore obsessed, just bleak as hell and not afraid to mess with the head.  Brilliant, but I can only read these one at a time rather than binge them as cozy mysteries often are. 

Something I am afraid to do is go back to old mysteries I used to like to see if they are any good at all.  At one point I was in love with Tony Hillerman's books, but I have no idea how they would hold up.

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20 hours ago, Rorshach said:

All in all, it wasn't his best, I think - too much rebellion and not enough mystery, I thought. However, I knew nothing about the rebellion beforehand (I may have a master's degree in history, but being neither English nor medieval in my primary interests, I know very little about that period altogheter), so in isolation it was interesting - but I would perhaps prefer a monograph to learn about it :)

I agree not his best but compared to others, still very good.  But nothing will ever equal Heartstone for me.  That is my absolute favorite.  Regarding Kett's Rebellion, that was actually something covered in some of my college Tudor history classes. But I didn't remember any of the specifics other than it was one of the many Tudor rebellions we had covered.  I came away with a clearer understanding of it after reading Sansom, however, than I did in those classes back then!

6 hours ago, AncalagonTheBlack said:

Any rec's of ancient/medieval historical mysteries are welcome.A few of my friends have rec'd these to me, are they any good? Which one's are worth reading?

Of the series you listed, I've read a couple of the Falco.  I enjoyed those.  My mother has acquired a few more so I will continue with those.  I've had the first SPQR book sitting on my bookshelf for a good few years now, I keep meaning to start it but I did pick it up after a friend highly recommended it.

As for a recommendation for a medieval mystery, Sharon Kay Penman - who is a most excellent historical fiction writer whose historical is always incredibly accurate - wrote a 4 book mystery series.  The Queen's Man is the first in the series.

5 hours ago, Wilbur said:

...Margery Allingham was a stylist whose Albert Campion mysteries rival Dorothy Sayers.  Lug the former-thief-and-now-butler by himself is worth the price of admission....

...Marion Chesney writing as M.C. Beaton wrote a large number of humorous British mysteries set in the Cotswolds (Agatha Raisin) and the Highlands (Hamish MacBeth).  These were realized as TV shows on Sky1 and the BBC, showing their popularity.  She also wrote an Edwardian mystery series about Lady Rose Summer, but those are harder to find.

As I mentioned above, I was a huge fan of any mystery book based on a PBS Mystery series in the 1980s.  They did some Campions back then and I found the series through that although I only read a few.  I've got The Fashion in Shrouds on my shelf which was my favorite of the tv series.  I need to read more though.

I've read one of the M.C. Beaton Hamish MacBeths.  It was set a Christmastime - I'm big into seasonal holiday reading.  amazon regularly puts those on offer so I might pick up a few more next time they are on offer.

4 hours ago, Astromech said:

I've been tempted to try out Fred Vargas and Louise Penny due to the settings. Been looking for a good Australian mystery/crime thriller too.

My mom has been piling the Louise Penny's up on me.  I've got a huge stash.

I would really like to read an Australian based mystery!  Sadly I think other than The Thorn Birds and a few historical romances, I've never read a book set in Australia.  That should change.

Speaking of locations, I also have a stash of Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti mysteries set in Venice that I also want to read.  Anyone read these?

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