My Top 5 . . . Mystery series
I’ve had this post in the works for weeks, and with my accident, it (along with a few other posts) has languished in my drafts pile. Luckily, I did most of the formatting a couple of weeks ago, so at least most of the heavy lifting was already taken care of.
I’ve been a big mystery reader for years—I actually worked my way through Agatha Christie’s enormous backlist when I was in junior high and high school— and while I don’t read as much as I used to, there are still some great series that I really enjoy.
Adrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon
This series is an excellent example of why I love reading series books. The characters, especially Adrien and Jake are revealed slowly over the course of the series. Learning about them is like peeling back the layers of an onion. At the end of each book, I feel differently about the characters (especially Jake!) based on what I have learned about them.
And, of course, this series wouldn’t be on my favorite mysteries lists if the mysteries themselves weren’t compelling. I’m a really harsh judge of books set in my backyard, and this series takes place about as close to my backyard as one can get. Josh Lanyon really captures the feel of contemporary LA, yet still casts a noir feel. Also, the mysteries themselves keep me guessing. On the couple where I guessed “whodunit” the “how” and the “why” kept me turning pages.
Rev Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series by Julia Spencer-Fleming
I’m always a sucker for a free book, and last year St Martin’s press very wisely gave away the first two books in this series. I actually wound up listening to most of this series, but I would never have checked it out in the first place without the “freebie” incentive.
Like the Adrien English series, this one has equally compelling characters and plot. Again, the characters —and their relationship—are developed slowly over many books. Our assumptions based on their roles (Clare’s as Episcopal priest and Russ’ as police chief) are challenged as we get to know the humans inside the priest’s collar and uniform.
Location, too, is as important as any character in this series. I love how JS-F evokes rural upstate New York, sometimes with it’s seasons or terrain playing a vital role in the mystery.
Read more about the Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series in these posts: Best Reads of 2008 (part 1-Mystery and YA edition)
Alphabet series (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries) by Sue Grafton
This is a series I have read for years, and yes, I’ve read A is for Alibi through T is for Trespass. Kinsey is one of those characters that over the years has become very real to me. Also, I love how Sue Grafton continues to try new things with the series, thus avoiding stagnation. It’s pretty ambitious to take on a 26 book series, which is expected when the books are named for the alphabet.
In fact, the last book released, T is for Trespass really broke new ground, with the book’s story structure (divided pov between Kinsey and a sociopathic serial killer) as well as it’s much darker than usual tone. (Necessary because of the villian’s pov.)
I can’t wait for U is for Undertow, which will be released in December 2009.
Read more about the Alphabet series in my post: Underground by Kat Richardson
Lord John series by Diana Gabaldon
DISCLAIMER: Lord John currently resides in my hut over at DIK, so I am a little biased when it comes to this gentleman sleuth. ;-)
This series is a little different for me, since I felt I already knew Lord John quite well through Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series before I read the Lord John series.
However, not only do we get to find out more about what happens to Lord John between his appearances in the Outlander books, but these mysteries include the same incredible historical detail that I’ve come to enjoy in DG’s books.
Additionally, there is no shying away from the dangerous reality on what it meant to live as a gay man in the military in 18th century Europe. The author’s research is apparent, but it is also blended seamlessly with an absorbing mystery, and wonderful character development. I’ve really been looking forward to Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner, which is the upcoming installment, but I haven’t been able to find a publication date.
Read more about the Lord John series in my post: Best Reads of 2008 (part 1-Mystery and YA edition)
Lady Julia Gray series by Deanna Raybourn
Another historical mystery, blending two of my favorite genres!
I actually had a bumpy start with this series, which I first listened to on audiobook. Fortunately, once I realized that my issue was with the narrator, my enjoyment of Deanna Raybourn’s writing increased dramatically.
Lady Julia is a great study in contrasts. She intelligent, witty, and an independent thinker. Yet, especially at the beginning of the series, a woman who still has a lot to discover about herself. I love that while she unravels the mysteries in each book, she is also learning about herself.
And, of course, there’s Brisbane. Mysterious, moody, and maddening, his chemistry with Lady Julia always sizzles beneath the surface.
I don’t read much by way of stand alone mysteries. It’s all about the series for me. I love really getting to know a character over many books, and with mysteries there is always the bits and pieces revealed about the protagonist that I love discovering.
Mysteries also appeal to my love of structure. There is an architecture in mystery writing, necessary so that the event/crime, clues, and reveal can evolve in a believable way.
It was really hard for me to leave a few books off this list, so I’m going to fudge a little, but including a couple of honorable mentions:
- The Richard Jury series by Martha Grimes
- Hercule Poirot series and the Tommy & Tuppence books by Agatha Christie
- The Adam Dagliesh series by PD James
I also just listened to The Wine of Angels (Merrily Watkins series, book 1) by Phil Rickman, an excellent psychological mystery that was very dark, had paranormal/horror overtones, and features a female Anglican priest. (Not exactly the typical cozy mystery one would expect, given the protagonist.) I highly recommend it.
Check out my other Top 5s in the sidebar on the right.
What are your top 5 mysteries?
Entry filed under: GLBT Fiction, Historical Mystery, M/M Mystery, Mystery, Mystery M/M, Top 5. Tags: Adrien English Mysteries, Alphabet series, Deanna Raybourn, Diana Gabaldon, Josh Lanyon, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Kinsey Milhone series, Lady Julia Gray series, Lord John series, Rev Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne series.