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-   -   Recommend a mystery for me (but not The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=598807)

Mean Mr. Mustard 02-28-2011 09:47 AM

Recommend a mystery for me (but not The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
 
I've just finished this book and found it astoundingly bad. I based my purchase on its popularity and glowing reviews and was entirely disappointed (much like I was with The DaVinci Code).

But it did, however, stoke me to seek out some quality, well-written, well-plotted mysteries. I'm looking for one of those books that has you in its grip so that you are thinking about it at random times throughout your day.

Suggestions?


mmm

Sigmagirl 02-28-2011 10:00 AM

Can you name some you did like? Do you like present-day settings, exotic settings, police protagonists, private eyes, female protagonists? What's your tolerance for blood and gore?

I'm a fan of Dennis Lehane, Lisa Scottoline, Sara Paretsky, Michael Connelly, Jacqueline Winspear, Michael Koryta, Tess Gerritsen, Laura Lippman . . .

Mean Mr. Mustard 02-28-2011 10:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sigmagirl (Post 13515642)
Can you name some you did like? Do you like present-day settings, exotic settings, police protagonists, private eyes, female protagonists? What's your tolerance for blood and gore?

I'm a fan of Dennis Lehane, Lisa Scottoline, Sara Paretsky, Michael Connelly, Jacqueline Winspear, Michael Koryta, Tess Gerritsen, Laura Lippman . . .

Truthfully, I've not read many mysteries (except back in my Hardy Boys days). What I'm looking for is someone who can construct a sentence, avoid cliches, and develop characters of depth.

Non-mystery writers whose work I admire include Mark Helprin, John Irving, Cormac McCarthy, Richard Ford, and Michael Chabon.

I have a high tolerance for blood and gore, and have no preference as to the other qualities you mentioned as long as the writing is quality.

Dennis Lehane is one author I've been considering; I'm not familiar with any of your other suggestions.

Thanks,

mmm

Zsofia 02-28-2011 10:11 AM

I just read A Corpse in the Koryo, which is the first in a series by James Church which is evidently a pseudonym for somebody with a long career in the intelligence community in Asia. It's set in North Korea and makes you feel like you know more about the people and culture than you did when you started. Well plotted but quite complicated - reminded me very much of Gorky Park. Which you should also read if you haven't.

wonky 02-28-2011 12:06 PM

One of the best mysteries I've read in the past few years is CJ Sansom's Dissolution.

An interesting setting and well-done story (though not really to my taste) is Philip Kerr's March Violets, set in Germany before WWII.

Brynda 02-28-2011 12:09 PM

I like Sophie Hannah and Elizabeth George, both of whom do good character development.

Eutychus 02-28-2011 12:10 PM

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.

The_Peyote_Coyote 02-28-2011 12:58 PM

I would recommend just about anything by Marcia Muller (Sharyn McCone is the most consistently good series of all time), Michael Slade (if you can stand blood and horror), Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald, T. Jefferson Parker (with the exception of California Girl. The MWA membership mush have been smoking meth, crack, opium, and reefer to give it an Edgar.) Dashiell Hammett, P.D. James, Dick Francis, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Mary Anna Evans, and Kate Wilhelm (Barbara Holloway is a pretty good series character, too, and Wilhelm is an excellent writer).
Agatha Christie can be hit-and-miss, but The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Death on the Nile, and The ABC Murders are all classics. The three Miss Marple novels I've read are pretty good.
From Ellery Queen's work, I would say The Green Coffin Mystery (more radical than Roger Ackroyd), The Egyptian Cross Mystery, Four of Hearts, Calamity Town, Cat of Many Tails (the first, and still one of the best, novels to deal with a serial killer), The Player on the Other Side, And on the Eighth Day, and Face to Face. Can you tell I'm an EQ fan?:)
Trent's Last Case by E.C. Benson
The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
In her novels spanning The Man with a Load of Mischief through The Old Silent, Martha Grimes is usually pretty good, but after The Old Silent , which is one of the best mysteries ever, IMO, they pretty much suck with the exception of The Lamorna Wink.
Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone series is uneven, but some of the novels, especialy I & K are excellent.
Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series is pretty good, but the later ones with Fat Ollie got on my nerves.
For a mixture of mystery and sci-fi, Asimov's The Caves of Steel and the Naked Sun are hard to beat. I would also contend that the second two Foundation novels from the original trilogy are also mysteries in their own fashion. (I'm not giving anything away by telling you that they involve the search for Trantor.)
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. T.S. Eliot called it the longest and the best of the detective novels.
The King of Methlehem by Mark Lindquist

Zsofia 02-28-2011 01:25 PM

Dorothy Sayers is one of my favorite authors, by the way - try Gaudy Night, it's my favorite. Or Strong Poison is the first Wimsey novel that also has Harriet Vane.

TravisFromOR 02-28-2011 01:28 PM

Agatha Christie...

Seriously, she's the best.

CalMeacham 02-28-2011 01:42 PM

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries

Robert H. van Gulik's Judge Dee Mysteries


Anything by Fredric Brown (although he wrote science fiction and fantasy, too. So if you buy a book with his name on it you might be getting something else)



Sadly, only the first of these is still easily available in print in bookstores. But you can find any of them online.

Mr. Moto 02-28-2011 01:44 PM

I'm still a fan of Rex Stout and the Nero Wolfe series - which you should remember is really about Wolfe's legman Archie Goodwin.

astorian 02-28-2011 02:08 PM

Even if you're NOT particularly interested in the world of horse racing, I think you'll find Dick Francis to be smart and compelling.

He has a lot of excellent novles to his credit, but "Banker" would be a good place to start.

woodstockbirdybird 02-28-2011 02:16 PM

Second Chandler, Hammett and Ross MacDonald. Based on your other fiction interests, I think these are the best matches. Also maybe Jim Thompson (who is more noir than mystery).

wonky 02-28-2011 02:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by astorian (Post 13516750)
Even if you're NOT particularly interested in the world of horse racing, I think you'll find Dick Francis to be smart and compelling.

He has a lot of excellent novles to his credit, but "Banker" would be a good place to start.

That's one of my favorites. I usually suggest people start with the Sid Halley books, though.

Miss Purl McKnittington 02-28-2011 02:39 PM

I really like Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries. They're set in a small town in upstate New York, and they're pretty thoughtfully written. Spencer-Fleming really nails what small-town life is, I think, without falling to cliches or making it boring. Don't be put off by the "stories of faith" thing, either. The Clare character is an Episcopal priest, but there's very little talk of god and the narrative itself doesn't push religion.

The first one is In the Bleak Midwinter.

DrDeth 02-28-2011 02:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CalMeacham (Post 13516660)
Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries

Robert H. van Gulik's Judge Dee Mysteries


.

Right, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries fit what the OP has asked for. And, they have withstood the test of time. What is better is that they are not outdated. Mind you, they are period pieces, from the late 1930s to the early 1970s.

Mr. Moto 02-28-2011 03:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DrDeth (Post 13516899)
Right, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries fit what the OP has asked for. And, they have withstood the test of time. What is better is that they are not outdated. Mind you, they are period pieces, from the late 1930s to the early 1970s.

The world has worked itself into Nero Wolfe's obsessions, from gourmet cooking to agoraphobia.

Long Time First Time 02-28-2011 03:58 PM

I really enjoyed the Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly. If you enjoy gritty without over the top gore. I'd suggest reading it before the movie comes out and spoils it.

The Tony Hillerman mysteries are very interesting.

Just Ed 02-28-2011 06:42 PM

I've read and liked a couple of Dennis Lehane's novels (Mystic River and A Drink Before the War), and have read Chuck Hogan's vampire stories (collaborations with Guillermo del Toro - The Strain and The Fall), and have been meaning to get to his Prince of Thieves, which was adapted into the Ben Affleck flick The Town.

I have not yet read Elmore Leonard, but he seems to be a leader in the field:
Quote:

Among his best-known works are Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk and Rum Punch, which was filmed as Jackie Brown. Leonard's short stories include ones that became the films 3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T, as well as the current TV series on FX, Justified.

Arnold Winkelried 02-28-2011 07:01 PM

Since you like Michael Chabon, you should read The Yiddish Policemen's Union if you haven't already.

Peremensoe 02-28-2011 07:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mean Mr. Mustard (Post 13515565)
I've just finished this book and found it astoundingly bad. I based my purchase on its popularity and glowing reviews and was entirely disappointed (much like I was with The DaVinci Code).

I just want to point out that the average review for each of these on Amazon is under 3.5 stars, which is pretty low for items of massive popularity, and each has the uptick in one-star reviews which is characteristic of readers who bought on hype and were disappointed.

C K Dexter Haven 02-28-2011 08:09 PM

I agree with Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout, or Dorothy Sayers. Almost anything they wrote is (a) well-written, (b) well-plotted, and (c) engrossing. Specifically to start, though, I'd suggest The Maltese Falcon as Hammett's best, and The Doorbell Rang as a VERY gripping Nero Wolfe. For Sayers, anything, but [i]Strong Poison[i] is a good detective story to get into, The Nine Tailors is absolutely unique in detective fiction, and Gaudy Night is one of the deepest (most profound, with depth of meaning).

I might add Margery Allingham's Tiger in the Smoke as an unusual but gripping story, well-written.

Lawrence Block's When the Sacred Ginmill Closes meets your criteria.

I personally find Agatha Christie fun, and certainly some are well-plotted and gripping, but I don't find the writing compelling. Murder on the Orient Express or The Murder of Roger Acroyd or The ABC Murders. Her plotting got more confusing after about 1965.

One modern British writer you might want to try: Robert Bernard.

And I agree that Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles is hard to beat.

The Other Waldo Pepper 02-28-2011 08:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The_Peyote_Coyote (Post 13516463)
Agatha Christie can be hit-and-miss, but The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Death on the Nile, and The ABC Murders are all classics.

I quite liked Five Little Pigs, and Curtain is a weird masterpiece.

Thudlow Boink 02-28-2011 08:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Long Time First Time (Post 13517201)
I really enjoyed the Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly.

Seconded—I found this to be a really entertaining example of contemporary popular fiction.

Frank 02-28-2011 08:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven (Post 13518073)
Lawrence Block's When the Sacred Ginmill Closes meets your criteria.

All the Scudder books are worth reading, and there are only one or two that are not worth re-reading. His burglar books are also worth reading if you can stand humor in your mysteries.

Donald Westlake and Richard Stark.

P. D. James.

Dick Francis is light reading, but very enjoyable light reading.

Mean Mr. Mustard 02-28-2011 09:27 PM

Thanks for the replies, everyone. I am researching and considering every suggestions.

So far I'm definitely going to read When the Sacred Ginmill Closes and The Lincoln Lawyer.

mmm

Sir T-Cups 02-28-2011 09:57 PM

I am a huge Boris Starling fan.

My absolute favorite of his is a book called Messiah, where there is a London serial killer who kills people with the names of the 12 disciples, in the way they were killed in real life (It's not a religious book at all in case that turns you off).

There are some great twists and turns in it and the ending is SUPURB!

Old Goat 02-28-2011 10:23 PM

I just finished 'When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro. Like his other works, it moves like molasses, but when I got to the end, I was left contemplating rhe whole story and the outcome for the protagonist.

Anything by Qui Xiaolong gives insight into Shanghai as it changes to a market economy, the cost of the 'Cultural Revolution, and some excellent Chinese poems,

Kolak of Twilo 02-28-2011 10:57 PM

Every so often someone asks this question and I always have to suggest Rennie Airth and his novels about Inspector John Madden.

River of Darkness is the first of three books and probably the best.

Reno Nevada 03-01-2011 08:53 AM

Most of my favorites have been mentioned--I will second Dorothy Sayers and van Gulik--but I will add Sarah Caudwell. Her first novel is Thus Was Adonis Murdered. They are tons of fun.

Odesio 03-01-2011 08:57 AM

Changeling is a ghost story starring George C. Scott but it features some top notch detective work. Scott plays a character trying to figure out why the temporary home he has moved into is haunted and follows a lot of clues to figure it out. Pretty good movie but it's a product of the 1970s and the pacing isn't the same as more recent movies.

Saltire 03-01-2011 09:20 AM

I'm not a big reader of mysteries, but I've enjoyed a couple of series for both the sleuthing and the setting: Medieval England. Both have great characters, and use a semi-cloistered smart person as their detective.

The first is the excellent Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters.

The second is the Sister Frevisse books by Margaret Fraser.

Floater 03-01-2011 09:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by astorian (Post 13516750)
Even if you're NOT particularly interested in the world of horse racing, I think you'll find Dick Francis to be smart and compelling.

I like him very much, but there is one thing that puts him a little on the minus side. His books are set in many different environments, not necessarily horse racing as such, and whenever he has written about something I know anything about I can sense that his knowledge on the subject is very shallow. He has studied it enough to be able to throw some terms around, but, then again, I guess it's OK if the reader knows next to nothing about it.

I can also recommend Ian Rankin.

Philliam 03-01-2011 01:13 PM

Scandanavian excellence:

Series of novels by Maj Sjovall & Per Walhoo (sorry, don't know how to add the proper diacriticals)

Series by Henning Mankell (Wallender now on PBS!)

Peter Hoeg - "Smilla's Sense of Snow"

Van deWettering - Gripstra & DeGier Series (kinda quirky)

Lunar Saltlick 03-01-2011 02:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Frank (Post 13518137)
All the Scudder books are worth reading, and there are only one or two that are not worth re-reading. His burglar books are also worth reading if you can stand humor in your mysteries.

Donald Westlake and Richard Stark.

P. D. James.

Dick Francis is light reading, but very enjoyable light reading.

Donald Westlake had a prodigious but uneven output. Writing as Richard Stark, he produced by far his best work. As I'm sure Frank knows, Stark's original Parker series, written from the late fifties to early seventies, aren't really mysteries -- they're crime novels, featuring a highly amoral thief named Parker. Parker isn't cute. Parker isn't a thief with a heart of gold. He doesn't cook or read poetry. Parker steals money, and if you get in his way, he kills you. End of story. It's the tightest, leanest series of crime novels ever produced, each one clocking in at about 160 pages, except for the final one, Butcher's Moon, which went over 300. Westlake/Stark took up the Parker cudgel again in the late 90s and produced about 7 more novels, but they weren't as good as the original ones. For one thing, in the new series, Parker works with frills! C'mon! That's not the Parker I knew and loved.

Anyway, Westlake passed away a couple years ago, so his output has ended. I also liked some of the novels he wrote under his own name, including The Axe, a chilling tale of how one desperate man gets his dream job.

I'm also a big P. D. James fan, and John Le Carré.

Don't know if anyone has mentioned Robert Goddard. He's often overlooked in these threads. I particularly liked Borrowed Time and In Pale Battalions, though neither one is usually held up as a shining example of his work. Some of his other novels get a tad cutsie for me -- such as Sea Change.

The grand-daddy of mystery books, is, however, The Chronicle of Battle Abbey. It's an actual historical document composed over the course of 300 years by monks in Battle Abbey scheming to avoid paying taxes to any lord. They get away with it for a few centuries, but ultimately, the king's court rules against them in a climactic finish that'll have you gripping the edge of your straw chair and raising your tankard of ale to your lips in a stupor.

Anyway, Méchant Monsieur Moutarde, I loved The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so take my suggestions at your own risk.

Lynn Bodoni 03-02-2011 08:52 AM

I love Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books. However, I've read some of his stories that don't feature Archie and Nero, and I found them to be distinctly mediocre.

You have to read Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharon MacCrumb, if you can find it, especially if you are an SF fan. It's dated, but it's still good.

I loved the Dream Park series by Larry Niven, but you'll find them in the SF section, as Niven is primarily an SF writer who uses mysteries and puzzles in his stories. I'm re-reading Flatlander, which is a series of short stories about a detective in the future.

CalMeacham 03-02-2011 08:58 AM

Quote:

You have to read Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharon MacCrumb, if you can find it, especially if you are an SF fan. It's dated, but it's still good.
A great book if you're into SF conventions. I've been told McCrumb recommends it to those who have never been to one.

She also wrote a pretty good sequel: Zombies of the Gene Pool, but it's harder to find

MovieCriticNextDoor 03-02-2011 03:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kolak of Twilo (Post 13518665)
Every so often someone asks this question and I always have to suggest Rennie Airth and his novels about Inspector John Madden.

River of Darkness is the first of three books and probably the best.

I second these. They're set between the world wars and are very well-written.

I'd like to also add anything by Ruth Rendell. Under that name, she writes the Chief Inspector Wexford series -- they would technically be classed as police procedurals, but they're certainly not just that.

Under the name Barbara Vine, she writes less-traditional mysteries, more along the lines of psychological thrillers. She's spooky good at writing through the eyes of a murderer. Live Flesh is a favorite of mine, as is Anna's Book.

DrDeth 03-02-2011 04:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni (Post 13524049)
I love Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books. However, I've read some of his stories that don't feature Archie and Nero, and I found them to be distinctly mediocre.

You have to read Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharon MacCrumb, if you can find it, especially if you are an SF fan. It's dated, but it's still good.

I loved the Dream Park series by Larry Niven, but you'll find them in the SF section, as Niven is primarily an SF writer who uses mysteries and puzzles in his stories. I'm re-reading Flatlander, which is a series of short stories about a detective in the future.

Yes, the other series aren't anywhere near as good (the one book staring Inspector Cramer is OK). Nor are the "continued after death" books by Goldsborough, altho the first one is not bad.

Good book, but a bit of a one-hit-wonder.

There's also the Asey Mayo (aka Codfish Sherlock) mysteries, which are nice as period/location pieces. (around WWII and Cape Cod).


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