Monday, June 5, 2017

Mysteries for summer days

Readers suggested a variety of noted books. I've read a smattering of the genre—Louise Penny, Ann Cleeves, Mary Higgins Clark, Sharyn McCrumb, some New England writers—and classical writers like Daphne Du Maurier, Poe and Dostoyevsky, but I asked more expert mystery fans to help. There are so many that it's not possible to generate a list complete enough for all.

Readers suggested a lot of women, but don't neglect the men. Just a few: Steig Larson, David Baldacci, Greg Iles, Lee Child, James Lee Burke, Tony Hillerman, John Grisham, Elmore Leonard, Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter Mosley, Ray Chandler, Dennis Lehane.

Thanks for your suggestions. If no one in your group reads mysteries—which hardly seems possible, given that most books, even classics, employ mystery in their plots—I suggest that everyone takes a different book and reports back. That'll be an interesting meeting.

"I am not one who likes cozy mysteries, but I don't like torture and mayhem either," says Geraldine Collier. "Basically, I enjoy ones that are set against an interesting time period or inform me about a slice of life that I wouldn't necessarily have known about. There's a ton of mystery writers I could mention to you ... but I will just mention a current one, who started publishing about the same time Louise Penny did. Her name is Tana French and she writes about the Dublin Murder Squad. They don't have to be read in sequence because each book focuses on different detectives and different plots. Some stories could be transferred easily to an American background while others have a uniquely Irish flavor ... there's a certain sadness that lingers."
Mystery author Karen Pullen ("Cold Feet," "Cold Heart,") likes books written by New England Sisters in Crime. Pullen resides in North Carolina but lived in Maine. She also recommends these Brits: Ruth Rendell,Kate Atkinson and Susan Hill.
Some regional authors might be available for a book club meeting, Pullen says:
"Brunonia Berry of Salem, author of "The Lace Reader" and "The Map of True Places" and her latest, "The Fifth Petal;" Sheila Connolly, whose New York Times bestsellers include the Orchard mysteries; the County Cork mysteries and the Relatively Dead mysteries; Hallie Ephron, who strove to keep readers on their toes with " Night, Night, Sleep Tight," "There Was an Old Woman" and the upcoming "You'll Never Know, Dear;" Kate Flora, of Concord, Mass., writes the Thea Kozak series of mysteries and has authored true-crime books; Gary Goshgarian (Gary Braver) has written eight mysteries, including "Elixir," "Flashback" and "Skin Deep;" Steve Liskow ("The Kids Are All Right") writes many mysteries about the Greater Hartford area.
Avid reader Charles Innis of Paxton brought up a reading guide: "A book (that) groups might find useful is "Books to Die For," (2012) edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke. It includes, Innis says, "great mystery writers writing about great mystery novels."
His suggestions of writers (and characters) include: "Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher, Corinna Chapman), Katherine Hall Page (Faith Fairchild), Rita Mae Brown (Sneaky Pie, Mags and Sister Jane).
"No longer with us, but the writing is still good: Philip R. Craig (Vineyard with JW Jackson), William G. Tapply (Brady Coyne), Charlotte MacLeod (Kelling and Bittersohn, Madoc and Janet Rhys), Patricia (Penny) Moyes (an old friend, Henry and Emmy Tibbett), Robert Parker (Spenser, Jesse Stone). Classic: Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey), Ross MacDonald (Lew Archer), John D. MacDonald (Travis McGee), Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe), Dashiell Hammett (Sam Spade, The Continental Op)."
He also points out Janet Evanovitch, Tess Gerritsen, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, M. H. Clark and Louise Penny's Armand Gamache series.
These writers vary widely in topic and treatment; discuss them first to help choose something readers will enjoy and find interesting enough for a meeting.
BookPage, a magazine I pick up free at the library (also available online), recently suggested contemporary mysteries, among them:
—"Dodgers" by Bill Beverly
“...Think Attica Locke’s 'Black Water Rising' or Dennis Lehane’s 'A Drink Before the War'—it's that good. ... (It) will upend your notions of the sort of character with whom you might empathize.”
—"Fatal Pursuit" by Martin Walker
“Walker’s engagingly droll series featuring Bruno, chief of police, is a longtime favorite. Readers can expect great plot and great milieu, but the icing on the gâteau is Bruno himself. Of all the cops in all the cop books I’ve read, he is the one whose home I would like to visit."
—"The Girl Before" by Rena Olsen
“Disturbing and unsettling ... the first-person tale of a woman in the throes of upending everything she holds to be real and true. As in the best suspense novels, there are mysteries within mysteries, and all is not what it seems.”