For years, I created a holiday reading guide, designed to help my readers choose books and music for holiday gifts. This year, the idea of creating one great big list of books for you sounds daunting, so I’m following my heart and creating two shorter lists. This Friday and next, I’ll be providing book recommendations to encourage you to have fun, stretch your life, and stir your imagination.
Up this week: mysteries. Specifically: a few good series to keep you busy through the cold winter months. Be sure to take time to enter the contest to win a copy of Janet Evanovich’s Notorious Nineteen.
Why I love to read mystery series books. I read a lot. After 20 years of reading between 80 and 150 books a year, my brain is addled. Seriously, how many more crazy characters can I keep alive up there before my head explodes? Thanks to Mystery series books, I don’t have to learn a whole new cast of characters for every single book. Instead, I can revisit characters I already know through previous books.
The downside of this, of course, is that after reading so many books about these people, it’s easy to think they’re real. I’ve even come close to inserting their antics into conversation—as in, “I have this friend who tried to purchased stuff from a storage facility but discovered a dead body.” Of course, that didn’t happen to a friend. It happened to Odelia Grey in Sue Ann Jaffarian‘s Secondhand Stiff. Yikes!
This year’s batch of good reads. Okay, so here are my picks for great mystery series books.
The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King (Harris Stuyvesant, #2) (The first book in the series is Touchstone ) I’ve long loved King’s other series (Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes and Kate Martinelli), so I was delighted when I received a review copy of The Bones of Paris. I was enjoyed meeting Stuyvesant and through him the dancers, writers, and artists of 1929 Paris. King beautifully renders 1920s Paris and also manages to send the reader on a bone-chilling hunt for a murderer.
Critical Mass by Sara Paretsky (V.I. Warshawski #16) When I met Sara Paretsky this past fall at Boswell Book Company, I told her that when I started reading mysteries back in the mid-nineties, her series was one of the first I fell in love with. And for good reason—V.I. Warshawski is a smart, good-hearted, and risk-taking protagonist who takes readers with her on one fine adventure after another. In this most recent installment, Warshawski’s investigation connects her to people from her friend Dr. Lotty Herschel’s past, when she was a child during the Holocaust, and the mad rush to develop the first atomic bomb. (If your new to the series, start with Indemnity Only.)
Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (Maisie Dobbs #10) Like most good mystery characters, Maisie Dobbs isn’t content to sit back and relax, even after she’s earned the respect of her peers and received an inheritance from her mentor. Maisie’s a restless soul who searches for the truth, no matter the cost. In this book, she’s hired to investigate the death of an Indian immigrant and explores once again what it means to be an outsider. As you might guess from the title, the book also has Maisie contemplating what’s next in her life. Read the book to find out more! (Start with Maisie Dobbs)
Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne #8) I was thrilled to receive an advanced review copy of Through the Evil Days and worried along with the Rev. Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne as they search for a missing child and brush up against a dangerous drug ring. For readers worried about whether the series would retain it’s romance once the two main characters married—fear not. There’s plenty of sizzle here. And that’s good, because this story takes place during a nasty winter storm that had me shivering just reading about it. If you’re new to the series, start with In the Bleak Midwinter.
Sun Storm by Åsa Larsson (Rebecka Martinsson #1) I love a good Scandinavian mystery, and this series by Åsa Larsson rocks. When the body of a friend’s brother is found mutilated inside his church, Stockholm attorney Rebecka Martinsson heads home to Kiruna to help her friend find out what happened. As Martinsson searches for the killer, she must also face her own difficult past.
The Last Word by Lisa Lutz (The Spellmans #6) After successfully executing a hostile takeover of the family business, Spellman Investigations, Isabel Spellman must navigate challenging relationships with her family. (Her parents won’t speak to her and her sister re-enters the business with less-than-altruistic motives.) On top of that, the business is losing money, her ex-boyfriend just got married, and then she gets accused of embezzling money from a former client and friend. If you haven’t read this irreverent, and laugh out loud series, start with The Spellman Files.
And a bit of video. I’ll give you my last two recommendations via video. When I had the opportunity to handsell books at Boswell Book Company (as a part of Indies First), Jim Higgins of the Journal Sentinel interviewed me about my favorite books. I recommended two of my favorite series Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley (Start with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) and Odelia Grey by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Start with Too Big to Miss).
CLICK HERE to watch the video.
On my shelf. Last summer, I was delighted to attend the launch of Louise Penny’s latest mystery, How the Light Gets In. (You can find me in the photo at left, taken by Louise Penny. I’m sitting along the aisle, wearing a black dress with a red scarf, proudly holding up my copy.) I’ve been saving that book all fall and am hoping to read it over the holiday break.
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