Sunday, August 12, 2007

My Favorite Mystery Authors and Why -- Part I

If I haven't mentioned it before -- and I think I have -- I am an inveterate reader. I love books and have since my first grade friend, Stevie Jo (short for Stephanie Joyce), took me to the Toledo Public Library branch near our school and the librarian gave me a card for my mother to sign so I could get books, too. That librarian didn't know that she was creating a monster. From that day forward I was at the library at least once a week -- usually twice. Summer was even better because there was no homework to interfere with my reading. They had a Summer Reading Program and when you returned your books, you told the librarian about each book you read which were duly recorded in your booklet and at the end of summer you received a certificate with a big gold seal and ribbons denoting how many books you had read. Stevie Jo and I were always among the top readers each summer.

My mother caught on that I would rather read than eat and books started appearing as gifts for my birthday and Christmas. I think I was in 4th grade when she got me my first Nancy Drew books for Christmas. I liked them so much I saved my small allowance to buy more. Nancy's exploits began my never-ending love affair with the mystery genre.

I was going to make this a Top Ten list but soon realized that that was impossible. I like each on it's own merits so I'm listing them in alphabetical order by author. I found it hard enough to keep the list at ten and even harder to keep myself from writing volumes on each of them! Even at that, I've decided to make this a two-part post that will continue on Tuesday because otherwise it would be far too long.

* Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder series -- Matt is the typical hard boiled New York gumshoe even after he quits drinking and becomes a pillar of A.A. I like the way Block develops his plots and characters and how the latter grow and change through this series. I've been reading it for over twenty years and have never had a bored moment.

* James Lee Burke's Dave Robichaux mysteries -- Set in Louisiana, Burke's descriptions are so vivid and poetic that you can smell the breeze off the bayou and visualize the demons that plague Robichaux. A former New Orleans cop, he has a lot of of them both in his mind and in his life.

* Patricia Cornwell's Dr. Kay Scarpetta series -- Dr. Scarpetta is both a doctor and a lawyer which eminently qualifies her to head the coroner's office in Virginia and in reading the series one sees her grow as a woman and a professional. This is not for the weak of stomach as things like crime scenes and autopsies are described.

* Dick Francis' horse racing mysteries -- Not all of this series is about British horse racing but there's always a connection to it somewhere in each book. This is not surprising considering that Mr. Francis was a champion jockey (and rode for the Queen Mum's stable for years) before he began his writing career. I like his insights into racing's upper crust and the insidious villains he creates.

* Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series -- This another series I've read for well over 20 years and I never tire of it. Kinsey is the quirky female equivalent of the hard boiled detective with a few soft spots that crop up now and again. The series begins with "A Is for Alibi'" and Grafton's latest offering , "T Is For Trespass", will be out in December. Fans are wondering what happens after 'Z' and I'm one of them. Grafton always writes a good page-turner injected with wry humor that keeps us addicted.

Well, that's the first five! Hope it gives you some new or old reading material. I'll be back on Tuesday with the rest of my favs because we all know what Mondays are for, don't we? Ha!

Happy Blogging!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



  1. I was never much of a mystery fan, but heavy into SciFi. One exception is Lawrence Sanders and his "Deadly Sin" series. They are spell-binding from the git-go.

  2. Nancy Drew got me into mysteries, too. Interesting that Winston mentioned Lawrence Sanders. I was coming to comment on one of my favorites by him: "The Tenth Commandment."

    You're from Toledo? My son lived in Maumee for several years so we got familiar with Toledo. Their downtown library is awesome.

  3. Winston? I like science fiction, too! My kids say I never met a book I didn't like but that's not true. I'd like to think I am a bit more selective than that.

    I think Nancy was responsible for a lot of us girls loving mysteries. Somehow I never got addicted to Sanders -- don't know why but I didn't.

    I grew up in Toledo until I was about 13 and I consider it my hometown. I get misty when I see the skyline and the river so I guess it's home but I don't have anyone there anymore. I've never fit in here and probably never will.


  4. Disappointed that Elizabeth George (whose novels were popularized into the PBS "Inspector Lynley" series) was not on your list. She's definitely the best mystery writer I've ever readd

  5. I read her, too, Ann! She is a good writer but I've others I like better. It's just a question of taste I guess. And if we all liked the same books, a lot of writers would be out of work! Right?


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