Who is the mystery-writer equivalent of Terry Pratchett?
May 30, 2010 9:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the mystery-writer equivalent of Terry Pratchett.

In my mind, that means:
  1. clever use of language and wording
  2. engaging characters
  3. emphasis on humor over pretty much everything else, but
  4. never sacrificing excellent and clever storytelling
I'm aware that quite a few of the Discworld stories are mysteries.

I don't care if the setting is fantastical or not, it really simply has to be very clever, funny, and can't-put-down-ish.
posted by Deathalicious to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might like the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. They're hilarious, if not exactly tightly plotted (he's constructed a universe that pretty much excuses all plotholes though, clever fellow)
posted by annathea at 9:49 PM on May 30, 2010 [9 favorites]

Best answer: He (Fforde) also has the Nursery Crime series (of which there are only two, so I don't know if that counts as a series), which I like a little bit better than Thursday Next. They are clever as hell and charming. Check out The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear. I loved both.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 10:10 PM on May 30, 2010

Best answer: Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently duology. I mean, he is a private detective.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:29 PM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]

Kyril Bonfiglioli has a three-book series that is sort of P.G. Wodehouse meets crime novel. The first is the best -- I think it's called Don't Point That Thing at Me
posted by paultopia at 11:01 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

For non-fantasy, I'd go with Donald Westlake's Dortmunder series, 14 quick, breezy novels about an enormously skillful burglar who has the luck of Wile E. Coyote. Wikipedia here, some Metafilter reminiscences here, and a sample chapter from the author's official site here. Westlake has also done other comic crime novels outside the Dortmunder series, but they're more uneven.
posted by ormondsacker at 11:04 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr series and his Evan Tanner series. They are funny and well written.
posted by bove at 11:47 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Carl Hiassen isn't as wordplay-oriented, but his books are hilarious, character driven, and tightly plotted in a way that reminds me of Pratchett (and the Coen brothers). I remember an interview in which Pterry himself recommends Hiassen as an author that more people in Britain should be reading. Lucky You is a pretty good one to start with.
posted by painquale at 12:08 AM on May 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

Many of them aren't necessarily mysteries per se, but you might like Carl Hiaasen's books. They're sort of environmental crime fiction, and quite funny. Try Stormy Weather or Sick Puppy.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:09 AM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fforde and Hiaasen are both excellent recommendations!
posted by speeb at 3:19 AM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: Fforde Ffor the win!? Jasper Fforde is mystery, literary appreciation, word play, and FUN between two covers. Unlike the above poster, I recommend leaving the Nursery Crimes and starting with the Thursday Next novels. His more recent book (title something about grey or colors, it is be the first of a few) also fits the bill. (How could you not have read these yet?)
posted by whatzit at 3:41 AM on May 31, 2010

John Mortimer, Rumpole of the Bailey.
posted by mcwetboy at 4:14 AM on May 31, 2010

Georgette Heyer wrote a number of 30s and 40s set murder mystery romps. I have only read a couple so I can't speak for all of them but I think that The Unfinished Clue would be right up your alley. Very funny with delightful characters.
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:18 AM on May 31, 2010

Tim Cockey's Hearse novels (I think they start with The Hearse You Came In On) are really funny mysteries the protagonist is a witty funeral director and they've never failed to make me laugh.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:28 AM on May 31, 2010

Have you tried any Robert Rankin? Not specifically mystery, but kinda Pratchett-esque.
posted by something_brighter at 6:31 AM on May 31, 2010

Seconding Westlake's Dortmunder novels. The first one's The Hot Rock.

You might like Robert Barnard's Perry Trethowan mysteries, starting with Death by Sheer Torture.
posted by asperity at 6:47 AM on May 31, 2010

I came in here to recommend Westlake's Dortmunder novels. So thirded.
posted by biscotti at 6:57 AM on May 31, 2010

Westlake is my primary suggestion as well. I love his work so much that I have his last Dortmunder book sitting on my nightstand, unread. I suspect it'll be a few years before I can bring myself to read it since it'll bet the last new work of his I will ever get to enjoy.

Hiassen is also an inspired choice. His books are practically non-fiction in the way they capture the insanity and inanity of Florida life.

You might also try the Fletch novels. They're dark in a way you'd never suspect from the clownish movies, yet still quite funny in places. The later novels staring Fletch's spawn are less great but still fun.
posted by phearlez at 7:36 AM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fforde, Hiaasen and Fletch are excellent recommendations. You might try Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, though these have some romance elements that might be a dealbreaker. Donald Westlake is one of my favorite authors--besides the Dortmunder books, you might also enjoy the stuff he wrote under the pseudonym Tucker Coe. (You might not like the Richard Stark stuff though.)
posted by box at 9:01 AM on May 31, 2010

Kyril Bonfiglioli?
posted by Artw at 9:55 AM on May 31, 2010

Kinky Friedman is all about the humor and wordplay. His website seems to be mostly devoted to selling cigars right now, but look up some of the reviews online and see what you think. Here's one for Greenwich Killing Time.
posted by vickyverky at 10:46 AM on May 31, 2010

You might try Elmore Leonard, too.
posted by box at 8:20 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Michael Innes meets conditions one, two and four. Appleby's End is probably the best place to start.

Disclaimer: I am a Pratchett fan and don't care for Fforde's Nursery Crimes (I quite like the TN series, but hadn't thought of them as like Pratchett - not joyous enough somehow, not enough sense of a community), Janet Evanovich or Kinky Friedman. The latter too seem too humour-based for me, characters not believable.
posted by paduasoy at 4:24 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations everyone. I'll be marking best answers as I start going through these books!

I've read the Dirk Gently books but it's been years so I might give them another read.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:14 AM on June 7, 2010

Response by poster: Oh man I am behind on my reading. As soon as I get to one of these writers I promise I'll award answers!
posted by Deathalicious at 4:23 PM on June 30, 2010

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