Help me find good detective/mystery novels

I’ve been through all the Travis McGees and numerous other John McDonald works, Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder series and Dick Francis’ stuff (to name some favorites), but the pickings are getting mighty slim out there.

Every time I browse the racks at the book store, most novels seem to fit categories in which I have little to no interest:

  1. Cute/humorous/wacky stories in the vein of Carl Hiassen.

  2. Quirky settings and/or detectives of exotic ethnicity (“A part Inuit, part Italian detective solves crimes from his hut on the windswept shores of Newfoundland, while searching for a good frozen lasagna”).

  3. As a subtheme to the above, books which immediately kill any sense of realism by giving their characters impossibly phony names. I do not buy books in which the lead character is named Gentian Delightly or Venerable Coxswain.

  4. Books by female authors. I know, that sounds terrible, and I enjoyed Agatha Christie back in the day, but current books/series by women seem to revolve heavily around the characters going to lunch. Interminably. Or chatting about their relationships, excessively. This includes that famous author with the alphabetical series which is now probably up to “V is for Veal Piccata”.

  5. Topics in which I’m not interested, including organized crime, terrorism, courtroom dramas, degenerating extended families in the deep South and mad scientists releasing killer strains of bacteria. I’ve always liked the general theme of cops and private eyes solving mysteries, from Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler onwards.

Is there any hope for finding good new authors who haven’t been trapped into the above genres?

A few mystery series I like:
1.) Lindsay Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco novels set in Rome at the time of Titus

2.) Stephanie Plum is hot right now, but she might be one you’ve already rejected. She’s from my home town!

3.) Toni L. P. Kellner – she wrote a series about a Southern woman who moves to Boston and solves mysteries. Curiously enough, Toni is herself a Southerbn woman who has moved to Boston. I found out about her books by running into her, and intuiting that she was a writer. Accordingh to her website, she’s started another series.

4.) My favorite mystery writer is still Fredric Brown, but he died in 1972 and his stuff is now out of print (although it was still in print over 20 years after his death). Worth looking up in used book shops.

Fie upon your likes & dislikes!

Laurie King’s series that began with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is fine writing.

Any young woman who can attract Sherlock Holmes won’t waste much time chattering at lunch.

Ripping yarns!

If you like Dick Francis (very well written books set against a consistent background), I think you’ll like Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books.

(You may consider Nero to be ‘impossibly phony’ and the character works from home.)

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels are great. They’re good from the first page.

Ed McBain, Kinky Friedman and Andrew Vachss are my big three.

You need to read James Ellroy’s “L.A. Quartet.” Hard-boiled, two-fisted detective and cop noir at its best. There are four novels that are best enjoyed in sequence: The Black Dahlia (a movie came out last fall), The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential (made into one of the best movies of the last 20 years), and White Jazz. His books are all DARK and disturbing, but he has led a really dark and disturbing life and draws from his own experiences. The plots are very complicated and the characters are all twisted, but I love the man’s work. You can probably find paperbacks at any used bookstore, or check your local library. Ellroy is one of the best writers working today, not just in the Mystery genre.

I tend to agree with you on the non-female authors, but you might take a look at the Kinsey Milhone (This could be the “V is for Veal” author) again, and V.I. Wercholski (sp) mysteries. There is an aspect of McGee in Milhone and a definitely hard boiledness to V.I.

Also, I know you were against strange locations and strange names, but I will almost promise that you will enjoy Updike’s Napolean Boneparte, a half caste aborigine in the outback of Australia. Give it a try. They mostly take place in the 30s and 40s.

You did not completely negate the “Fletch” novels. The first two are good and the third is tolerable. They are nothing like the films, honestly.

The Easy Rollins mysteries have been around for a while and are good.

The Navajo detectives Jim Che and Joe Leaphorn are very well developed and are excellent mysteries. Yes, the detectives are Native American, and they do take place in the Southwest, but are an extremely well done series and are a good read.

I I’d try Michael Connelly’s Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch books. Old school style cop detective novel, in some of the latter books he’s a retired cop/private detective.

James Patterson has two series going. The Alex Cross books, the movies Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider are from this series. The Women’s Murder club is his second series, as the name implies the protagonists are women so you may not like that one.

The Easy Rawlins books by Walter Mosley are also a pretty good read. This one you might find gimmicky because the stories are set in 60’s Los Angeles

Caridwen I just finished a Jack Reacher book Die Trying I liked it so much I picked up another yesterday.

The Frost series by R. D. Wingfield is good fun… a wicked sense of humor, and a classic anti-hero for the lead.

If you like cops, you might try some English ones. Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse comes to mind. Also, Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford series. She has a lot of other interesting psychological thrillers as well, but Wexford is a traditional police detective. P.D. James’ Adam Dalgleish is also a Scotland Yard type. That latter two are female, but not at all in the English cozy/ladies who lunch mold. And Inspector Morse is an even bigger mess than Matthew Scudder.

I’m a huge fan of Dick Francis. I don’t consider any author to be very similar.

I second the Tony Hillerman books, despite the exotic locales.

And despite the exotic locales plus having a female author, I’d suggest Margaret Coel’s books set amongst the Arapaho.

I picked these two authors because neither are flowery or goofy. Both write strong, straightforward novels, with a fine sense of place. In that way, they remind me of Dick Francis.

The late Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer books are apparently out of print right now, but they’re worth searching out.

Try Michal Dibdin Aurelio Zen novels - apart from the name I think he avoids the categories you mentioned above

Usually playing for the other side, but, anything by Donald Westlake is a winner.

James Lee Burke is good. He has 2 series, Dave Robicheaux set in Louisiana and another set in the West. He is an excellent writer. His character is a little degenerate, but I don’t think it’s the degenerating Southern family genre.

Of those mentioned previously, I second Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford and P.D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh. From your concern, I wonder if maybe it is women protagonists more than women authors that bother you? Thus I still heartily recommend these two. I don’t think you’ll find them “lunchy.” Ed McBain, Colin Dexter, Walter Mosley and Andrew Vachss also get seconds from me.

I just made the assumption that you had read these because they are so Raymond Chandler. But if you haven’t read them, these are right down your alley.

I dunno if Scottish is too ‘ethnic’ for you, but you might try Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels. There are some organized crime aspects to them, but they’re not mob books.

A little lighter, and English instead of Scottish, try Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series.

I second **Lee Child’s ** novels. If you like Travis McGee, you’ll almost certainly enjoy Jack Reacher.

I thought it had only made it as far as “T is for Sympathy.” :wink:

I agree with you on this particular series, and I’d give up fast on any series that had a lot more lunch/relationships stuff than detecting.

But I’ve found Jan Burke’s Irene Kelly novels to be wonderfully fast-paced and riveting.