This week’s book chat is another favorites list. This time I’m talking about my favorite mystery books. Mystery is one of my favorite genres because I enjoy trying to piece things together and figure out what happened. Mysteries tend to be fast-paced and engaging for me. I have no patience when it comes to waiting to find out what happened, so I tend to fly through mystery novels faster than any other genre.
Having said that, one downside to the mystery genre is that mysteries often sacrifice character development and nuance for the sake of the plot. The scenario is what drives the story and the detectives and even the criminals are often colorless vehicles for moving the story along. The books on this list are books that manage to find a middle ground. They are books that present fully formed characters as well as interesting circumstances. They are centered on crimes or mysteries that are far more nuanced than cops vs. criminals. Whether you are a mystery-lover or just an occasional dabbler, I think these books are worth the read.
As a disclaimer, all of these books contain a fair amount of language and some sexual content (not necessarily violent). Nothing Girl-With-The-Dragon-Tattoo level, but I wanted to give fair warning.
There is a list of current Kindle deals at the bottom of this post.
Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie Mysteries. Atkinson is a brilliant writer. Her literary novels are fresh, fascinating, and incredibly well-executed. I genuinely think she is one of the best writers of our time and I love what she brings to the mystery genre. The Jackson Brodie mysteries interweave the personal life of Jackson Brodie, an ex-cop turned Private Investigator, with mysteries that range from the criminal to the bizarre to the mundane. In the first book, Case Histories, Brodie investigates the disappearance of a young girl thirty years ago, the case of a young woman who is the victim of a seemingly random attack, and a young mother who is trapped in a life that is driving her to take drastic action. Brodie’s investigations reveal complex characters and intriguing connections. Atkinson made me care about Brodie as a multi-dimensional character, not just a wisecracking gumshoe and that’s what made me devour each new book she wrote. Start with Case Histories,but the other three One Good Turn (2), When Will There Be Good News (3) (Jonathan’s favorite), and Started Early, Took My Dog (4) are all great. I don’t know which is my favorite – I liked One Good Turn least, but I still enjoyed it a lot. The BBC has turned these books into a miniseries called Case Histories which stars Jason Isaacs as Jackson Brodie and is extremely well done.
Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad mysteries. This is an Irish book and the characters speak authentically – a.k.a mostly in expletives. For being police procedurals, these mysteries are quite unique. The books are only tangentially related to one another and each one focuses on a different detective within the fictional Dublin Murder Squad. They do happen sequentially in time, but they aren’t heavily reliant on one another and could be read in any order. For me, the standout is The Likeness (Book #2). It is unlike any other mystery I’ve ever read. Detective Cassie Maddox finds herself in a perplexing situation when she begins to investigate the murder of a woman who looks uncannily similar to her and whose identification bears the name Alexandra Madison, an alias Maddox herself had previously used. French’s books can be a bit dark, even disturbing to some (though I’ve never had a problem with them) but they are fantastic suspense dramas. I am always impressed to read a book convincing enough to get my heart racing. If I had to rank these books I’d put The Likeness first, In the Woods (#1) and Faithful Place (#3) next, followed by the latest two – Broken Harbor (#4) and The Secret Place (#5). These are books I buy the day they are released. I loved them all.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith). I was so curious to read this after being less-than-enthralled by The Casual Vacancy. It turns out Rowling makes a pretty good mystery writer. Her storytelling abilities are peerless and I was impressed with how much I enjoyed this book. Rowling has also created a private detective (Cormoran Strike) whose personal life bleeds into his professional life in a way that makes him an interesting character in his own right. I read The Silkworm as well and while I enjoyed it, The Cuckoo’s Calling was better. Cormoran Strike is a wounded Afghanistan veteran now working as a private investigator who is hired to investigate the suicide of a legendary supermodel.
Big Little Lies by Liana Moriarty. While this isn’t a procedural or detective mystery, the story revolves around the death of an elementary school parent at a school function, but who died and how it happened remains a mystery until the very end. This is a story about a community, family relationships, and suburban politics with the extra element of mystery woven in.
Current Kindle Deals
Kindle devices are on sale for the month of March starting at $59.
*As of March 13th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.
New on sale this week:
Three Wishes Liane Moriarty ($2.99)
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson ($5.70)
The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown ($2.99) I haven’t read this one, but it has rave reviews.
Still on sale from last week:
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins ($6.49) This is the lowest price I’ve ever seen this new release. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s recommended for fans of Gone Girl
The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver ($4.99) One of my favorite writers. Kentucky native Taylor Greer tries to escape her roots but succeeds in collecting a 3-year-old native American girl along the way.
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor ($3.99)
Mistborn– The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson ($4.99) This is the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn fantasy trilogy. I’m currently reading this.
Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03) One of my best books of 2014 and one of my favorite spiritual memoirs.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green ($2.99) So good, but read with tissues.
Me Before You, JoJo Moyes ($2.99) Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This is a quick read, but not a particularly light one. Be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.
The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99). There’s a reason this book is so popular. It’s great.
Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99) One of my new favorite young adult novels. So sweet.
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