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.


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.



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.

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.

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

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

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?:slight_smile:
*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

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.

Agatha Christie…

Seriously, she’s the best.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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

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.

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.

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.

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: