New crime novels for my mum
March 1, 2010 9:32 AM   Subscribe

With Mother's Day looming I need some new crime novels for my mum. Having bought her A History Of British Serial Killing for Christmas I worry that I've raised the blood-splattered bar too high for any fiction follow-up.

What my mum likes: Ian Rankin (probably her favourite), Alexander McCall Smith, Minette Walters, P D James, Val McDermid, Colin Dexter - all the usual suspects of British crime writing. She likes Agatha Cristie but prefers to watch the TV adaptations rather than read the books.

I think she prefers British set books, but I think other settings would be fine if they were suitably great books.

I could ask her which books by her favourite authors she hasn't read, but she won't know which she's read (she remembers books purely by their covers).

So Hivemind, do you know of some new or recent novels that are bloodsoaked enough to prove my filial affection?
posted by Coobeastie to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Has she read A Small Death in Lisbon, by Robert Wilson? Not British-set, and a really unconventional detective story/thriller in a lot of ways (the fifty-year timeline, for one), but it's really an excellently-written book with a great plot.

It is really bloody and has some disturbingly explicit sex and violence, though -- my mother-in-law loved this book, and I've recommended it to my stepmom, but I would never give it to my own mystery-loving mom. Only you can know if your own mom would enjoy it, or be creeped out by it.
posted by kataclysm at 9:39 AM on March 1, 2010

Best answer: Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I listened to the book on tape on a long car trip and it was so disturbing (more torture than actual blood) I almost threw up out the window. I know he has a follow-up novel but I haven't yet read it. I think it's set in Sweden.

I also think Patricia Cornwell novels are great, if perhaps a little lowbrow for her reading tastes. Cornwell's has written a bunch of novels featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner in Virginia (she does autopsies on bloody bodies and solves crimes), and those are really fun.
posted by sallybrown at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2010

I'm interested in the books and movie(s) described by this recent New Yorker review. Excerpt: “The Red Riding Trilogy” is based on a quartet of books (one was dropped for the TV adaptation) written by the British noir specialist David Peace, who, starting in 1999, fictionalized some of England’s most notorious recent crimes. Elements of the following find their way into the movie: the “Moors murders,” of five children, between July, 1963, and October, 1965; the murder of thirteen women by Peter William Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper, between 1975 and 1980; and a miscarriage of justice that saw Stefan Kiszko, a twenty-six-year-old tax clerk from Rochdale, serve sixteen years for a 1975 murder that he did not commit. Believe it or not, the series is an entertainment.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:51 AM on March 1, 2010

Try Elizabeth George - set in England, but I think the author is American. They seem like more action-y P.D. James to me. John Harvey is one of my favorites and seems to be lesser known. Denise Mina's Paddy Meehan novels and Stuart McBride are some good Scottish ones.

It sounds like she likes police based ones, but if she is willing to go historical: Ellis Peters, Sharon Kay Penman, and Alan Gordon.

And to make this easier in the future, both to know what she has and to get recommendations - if she actually has all the books to work from, get a LibraryThing account for her and spend a few hours putting everything into it. (I generated the above list by clicking on my mystery tag and sorting by rating :)
posted by ansate at 9:51 AM on March 1, 2010

Derek Raymond's Factory novels are set in England, and quite dark.
posted by dortmunder at 10:08 AM on March 1, 2010

Stephen Booth - the Cooper and Fry series
posted by candyland at 10:10 AM on March 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the great recs.

ansate - shall suggest LibraryThing as a retirement project for her!

ClaudiaCenter - “The Red Riding Trilogy” is set around where I grew up, and the description in that review seems bang on to me. Apart from "the area's famous beauty" part - the bits of West Yorkshire I remember were scum ugly!
posted by Coobeastie at 10:11 AM on March 1, 2010

Nthing Stieg Larsson's books. There are only three as he died before any of them were published. They are compelling and very dark. His characters are very well-developed and his story lines are worth the read.
posted by Old Geezer at 10:20 AM on March 1, 2010

If she'd be interested in a graphic novel and isn't squeamish about illustrated nudity From Hell seems like a good potential fit.
posted by contraption at 10:25 AM on March 1, 2010

Best answer: The Wallander books (link goes to the first in the series) by Henning Mankell are pretty good - in much the same vein as Colin Dexter, though set in Sweden. A couple of people have said that the Kenneth Branagh adaptations have spoiled the books for them though.

One of my colleagues is very much into the Martin Beck novels, which are also Swedish. And usefully for future purchasing, the spines of the books arranged in order spell out M-A-R-T-I-N-B-E-C-K, so your mum can always say which letter she's missing!

If she's not averse to non-fiction - The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale was a big hit with my folks last Christmas - it's the true story of one of the first murder cases in the UK to be investigated by a detective, told like a novel. (disclaimer, it's about the death of a small child, which isn't everyone's cup of tea).

I also just read Louise Welsh's Glasgow-set The Cutting Room, which isn't a police procedural, but absolutely gripped me, her new one Naming the Bones might also be suitable.
posted by featherboa at 10:40 AM on March 1, 2010

They may be too perverse for her, but I love Kyril Bonfiglioli's Mortdecai books, Don't Point That Thing At Me, After You With The Pistol, and Something Nasty In The Woodshed.
posted by nicwolff at 11:02 AM on March 1, 2010

Peter James writes thrillers (the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace novels) set in his hometown of Brighton. The prose is Patricia Cornwell-trashy, but the local settings are fun.

This article also mentions a few other thrillers set in Brighton.
posted by hot soup girl at 11:30 AM on March 1, 2010

I can't recommend Charlaine Harris's (best known for True Blood) Shakespeare series highly enough. While the books themselves aren't overly violent most of the time, the main character, Lily Bard, is a woman putting her life back together (I use the term loosely) after having been raped and tortured horribly. She is the only fictional rape victim that I've ever read that felt so real I had to find out if the author was raped.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 12:12 PM on March 1, 2010

I join ClaudiaCenter in recommending the Peace books, but just as a heads up the novels are rather raw with lots of graphic sex and violence. I'm enjoying them but I'd feel funny recommending them to my parents.
posted by tommasz at 12:52 PM on March 1, 2010

I've really liked Reginald Hill's Dalziel & Pascoe series. It looks like there are 24 of them so it would keep her busy for awhile.
If she hasn't read Ngaio Marsh you might give her a try. Her books are mostly set in New Zealand and not as modern or bloody but very enjoyable.
posted by BoscosMom at 1:09 PM on March 1, 2010

When I found Jean-Claude Izzo's Marseille Trilogy, I felt like I'd been let in on a wonderful secret. By taking the conventions of noir detective novels and setting them in post-millennial France Izzo makes old themes of trust, crime, and revenge seem fresh. His eye for detail is remarkable too: Marseille is, in many sigificant ways, the main character of these books -- much like New York was in Woody Allen's best films.
posted by .kobayashi. at 1:40 PM on March 1, 2010

I have similar tastes, and I love Stuart MacBride (cautions: Scottish, gritty, violent/gory, makes you never want to visit Aberdeen).

Seconding Dalziel and Pascoe, although there are some that are rather samey.

Barbara Vine is Ruth Rendell's alter ego. They tend to be darker than Ruth Rendell books and I far prefer them.

John Lawton, specifically A Little White Death, which is all kinds of awesome (good story, amazing historical snapshot, great writing).
posted by biscotti at 2:59 PM on March 1, 2010

Portrait of a Killer - Jack the Ripper: Case Closed > Patricia Cornwell

Lot's of controversy around her research and findings but a very interesting read none the less.
posted by Weaslegirl at 3:25 PM on March 1, 2010

They're not particularly blood-soaked, but if she likes Rankin, she'll probably like Peter Robinson. His detective is a little more orthodox than Rebus and works in Yorkshire, but he has the requisite marital problems, love of music and history of family members suffering violently.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:17 PM on March 1, 2010

Stieg Larsson, yes.
posted by number9dream at 6:10 PM on March 1, 2010

Just look up past Edgar Award winners. Foolproof!
posted by wwartorff at 6:39 PM on March 1, 2010

Best answer: The novels of Sue Grafton, particularly the Kinsey Millhone series, should keep her busy for a while....

Two suggestions that might be helpful:

- if you've got one nearby, go find a used-paperbacks shop. (Preferably one specializing in mysteries, like my aforementioned mother's favorite shop....) Answering questions like this for customers and their relatives is one of a good proprietor's favorite activities. (If you haven't got a mystery shop around, the reference staff at your local public library might also be helpful....)

- take a couple of the authors you know she likes and look up their author pages on Amazon (here's the page for Dick Francis, one of my mother's favorites). On the right, below the author's bio, you'll see a listing of "Customers Also Bought Items By", showing other authors you (or your mom) might be interested in---for Francis, this includes Sue Grafton, J. A. Jance, Robert B. Parker, Tony Hillerman, John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connelly, Robert Ludlum, Janet Evanovich, Robert Crais, all of whom I know my mother has books by (in certain cases, like Parker and Grafton, many books), as well as Agatha Christie. Following a few of those links for your mom's favorites should give you an idea of what else she might like.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 3:14 PM on March 2, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you everyone - great recs all round!
posted by Coobeastie at 9:12 AM on March 3, 2010

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