please recommend fiction
September 15, 2011 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend books: urban fantasy and mysteries, no thinking required.

Asking for my girlfriend. She's exhausted all the authors she knows of, and is looking for new authors. She loves mysteries and vampires, but is less interested in high fantasy. She wants escapist books that don't make her think - but she finds bad writing distracting, so they need to have some level of quality.

Some of her favorite authors:

Robert B Parker
JD Robb
Charlene Harris
Patricia Briggs
Kim Harrison
Kelley Armstrong
Jim Butcher
Ellen Hart
posted by insectosaurus to Media & Arts (48 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a thread along similar lines.

In addition to the stuff I mentioned there, I'd recommend Robin McKinley's Sunshine, and Cherie Priest's Bloodshot (and, presumably, Hellbent, which just came out this week and I haven't picked up yet but I will,) Tanya Huff's Blood books, Mario Acevedo's not-as-silly-or-as-porny-as-they-sound (but still entertaining) Felix Gomez novels, the first 8 (at MOST) Anita Blake books (before they get laughable they're really just fine.)

The above are in approximate order of quality. Bloodshot is probably the funniest, the Acevedo stuff the slightest, and the Anita Blake stuff the most dubious.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:25 PM on September 15, 2011

I suggest Seanan McGuire's "October Daye" series. Same vein as Butcher, but the main character is a half-fae private investigator who gets pulled into politics as basically the only one of them in that world, and that solves absolutely zero of her personal problems. I enjoy the series, and the fifth just came out. I'm halfway through it and enjoying it immensely.
posted by mephron at 9:32 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

I always suggest Philippa Ballantine's books, "Geist" and "Spectyr" for good urban/paranormal fantasy books. They may not be exactly what she is looking for, but worth it.
posted by Polgara at 9:37 PM on September 15, 2011

I've just started reading Mike Carey's Felix Castor series and am really enjoying it. It feels a lot like a better written and less goony Dresden files. It's about exorcists rather than wizards but is very much in the hardboiled PI genre.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 9:40 PM on September 15, 2011

Urban fantasy: maybe Chloe Neill, Jennifer Estep, or Carrie Vaughn, and I'll second Seanan McGuire / Mira Grant. Crime / mystery: maybe Janet Evanovich or Sarah Strohmeyer (the Bubbles series).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:43 PM on September 15, 2011

Dresden Files and the Nightside series are both good

what was that one about the elves in Minneapolis who got involved with a girl in a band?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:49 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

LiB: Emma Bull's "War for the Oaks".
posted by mephron at 9:54 PM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Gail Carriger's Soulless series is a kick and a half. Titles are Soulless, Heartless, Blameless, Changeless, and Timeless will be out next year. Steampunk, Victorian, vampires and werewolves, urban, and laugh-out-loud humorous.
posted by aryma at 10:05 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Veronica by Nicholas Christopher. No elves or anything, but it does involve a mundane photographer getting mixed up in the intrigues of magicians who do capital-M magic. Christopher's been mentioned a few times before, those threads might yield more titles of interest.
posted by unmake at 10:18 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding War for the Oaks. Try The Wood Wife and, I guess, the Fever series. That one had all sorts of ups and downs for me, but if she likes light UF reads along the lines of Harris, she'll probably enjoy it.
posted by iamfantastikate at 10:34 PM on September 15, 2011

Charles de Lint's Greenmantle

dunno if this is stretching the definition of 'urban fantasy', but Fritz Leiber's Fahrd and the Grey Mouser series are just rollicking fantasy adventures set in a city
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:35 PM on September 15, 2011

T.A. Pratt's Marla Mason series. Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim series. One stars a female protagonist, another a male -- but both very solid writing, often very funny while being quite dark & rife with gallows humor, not focused on thinly-veiled erotica like some of the paranormal series out there, both series mystery-focused, and much more inventive than much in the genre.
posted by tigerbelly at 10:37 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

This far in and no Raymond Chandler?
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 10:58 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've just started reading Mike Carey's Felix Castor series and am really enjoying it.
Seconded. And Kate Griffen's Matthew Swift books

Try Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books. They're tightly-written, easy to read non-vampire non-fantasy mysteries. They read well.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:11 PM on September 15, 2011

Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin is great stuff. The couple after that perhaps aren't quite up to the standard of the first but they are well written and the ideas are fresh.
posted by ninazer0 at 11:14 PM on September 15, 2011

Oh, and perhaps she'd like A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K Hamilton (the first in the Meredeth Gentry series, not the Vampire hunter series). Faerie in modern day cities with magic and plenty of sex. It's light, fluffy, and a guilty pleasure.
posted by ninazer0 at 11:17 PM on September 15, 2011

Ben Aaranovitch's London-set urban fantasies are proper mysteries and just terrific. Best popcorn fiction I've read in ages.
posted by Erasmouse at 11:48 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Charles de Lint does quite a bit of urban fantasy, as does Ilona Andrews. I would recommend also trying Nina Kiriki Hoffman's The Silent Strength of Stones and The Thread That Binds the Bones.
posted by gudrun at 11:48 PM on September 15, 2011

Seconding both Charles de Lint and Ilona Andrews (The Kate Daniels series is total candy).
posted by itwasyou at 12:38 AM on September 16, 2011

Pretty much anything by Haruki Murakami will fulfill the urban fantasy, quality writing, and no-heavy-thinking requirements. I particularly recommend Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, as they contain some strong mystery elements as well.
posted by Kevtaro at 1:14 AM on September 16, 2011

my GF says Mary Janice Davidson's Undead and Xrhyming series is better than it sounds, and totally fits the topic.

Seconding Simon R Green's Nightside (but, for her, probably ONLY The Nightside. Maybe maybe The Droods.... maybe)

How would she feel about good fantasy thats maybe not as high? Name of the Wind I recommend to everybody. Also, while it may or may not be described as 'popcorny/brain turn offy' Robin Hobbs Liveship Traders books are incredibly well written.

Having not actually read it, I'ma toss out the J. Carey Kushiel books based solely on the number of ladies I know who rave about them.

Back on topic! Girl with the Dragon tattoo? seems to work too.

Agatha Christie? PG Wodehouse? GK Chesterton?
posted by Jacen at 1:17 AM on September 16, 2011

Someday I won't screw up a link.. Ben Aaranovitch. Really he's just great, audiobooks are also super. 'A perfect blend of CSI and Harry Potter' is right; They're not kids book, they get a bit gory but all in good fun.
posted by Erasmouse at 4:22 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got a lot of good urban fantasy suggestions in this thread.

For mysteries, maybe give Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse or Caroline Graham's Inspector Barnaby serieses a go? Both are heavy on characterization and pretty well written.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:03 AM on September 16, 2011

Ooh, can't believe I forgot. While the Kushiel books are definitely high fantasy, I totally dug Jacqueline Carey's Santa Olivia, which definitely falls firmly in the "urban fantasy" category. Sequel coming out sometime this fall, too.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:37 AM on September 16, 2011

She should look into Preacher. It's a comic book, not a traditional novel, but it seems to otherwise fit the bill.
posted by valkyryn at 5:42 AM on September 16, 2011

Lee Child's series of Jack Reacher books. Unputdownable.
posted by zardoz at 5:56 AM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding Mike Carey (Felix Castor series), Tanya Huff (Blood series), Carrie Vaughn (Kitty series) and Simon R. Green (Nightside series). And the first few - and only, I cannot stress this enough, the first few - of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books. (I reread the first five or six more than once, because they're fast-paced and fun; after reading Narcissus in Chains I found the ones I'd enjoyed had been so tarnished by association that I couldn't bring myself to pick them up again.)

Adding Kat Richardson's Greywalker books, in which the heroine gets the series off to an unusual start by dying. There are vampires and various other supernatural entities, but some of the most important ones are original to the author, which I find refreshing; and (I think) the books are very well-written.

I'd also like to suggest a couple of variations on the theme: Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon quartet, for a different take on werewolves (here's a review of the first one; there's a Wikipedia page for the quartet, but it's spoilery) and Charles Stross's Laundry series, which is not urban fantasy in the usual sense, but which does involve strange happenings in something that looks a lot like our world (and is great fun to boot).

On the plain mystery side, perhaps she'd like Sue Grafton's Alphabet series, set in 1980s California (the author started writing the series back then, and has let series time progress at its own rate instead of keeping pace with the real world): the tone of the first few urban fantasy novels I read reminded me strongly of those books. Then there's Lindsey Davis's Falco series, set in ancient Rome, with a likeable, wisecracking male protagonist; and Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May books, which read like whimsical urban fantasy but (mostly) without the fantasy. They're set in London, usually contemporary but with a few forays into the earlier parts of the elderly protagonists' careers.

I am... impressed, and slightly chastened, by the suggestion that Haruki Murakami writes no-heavy-thinking books.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:22 AM on September 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Look into The Last Hot Time by John M. Ford. Seconding Preacher, great stuff but a bit harsh.

The Nightside series by Simon Green was worth reading, and I started his "Secret History" series also, though it seems very simliar to the former, maybe too much so.
posted by beowulf573 at 6:25 AM on September 16, 2011

As of fan of escapist vampire books, I'd recommend the following ones. Most have some level of romance in them.

Cat Adam's Bloodsinger series (starts with Blood Song)
Karen Chance's Dorina Basarab series (Midnight's Daughter, Death's Mistress)
Sharon Ashwood's Dark Forgotten series (starts with Ravenous)
Christina Dodd's Darkness Chosen series (starts with Scent of Darkness)
Eve Silver's Otherkin series (has demons instead of vampires; starts with Sins of the Heart)

These two aren't urban fantasy (the first is steampunk romance and the second is alien romance) but as they are two of my most favorite series right now, I have to recommend them:

Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series (The Iron Duke plus there are some short stories)
Gini Koch's Kitty Katt series
posted by bluesapphires at 6:49 AM on September 16, 2011

Agreed on War for the Oaks and The Last Hot Time.

I'd also recommend Barbara Hambly's vampire series:
Those Who Hunt the Night
Travelling with the Dead
Blood Maidens

The first two are out of print (dammit -- my copy of TWHtN is falling apart), but available on Kindle. The third just came out recently. The setting is Edwardian England (later Germany, Turkey, and Russia), and it's got both mysteries and vampires. Excellent stuff.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:00 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cannot recommend Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant enough. October Daye is a fantastic series (the fifth one just came out, and it was quite good). Also Sunshine by Robin McKinley.

Also, um. This is urban fantasy, Victorian style, but the Parasol Protectorate series (starting with Soulless) is actually quite fun. It's sort of like if you crossed Jane Austen with Charlaine Harris. It may not be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it overall.

Guy Gavriel Kay's novel Ysabel is set in modern times (unlike most of his other books, which are more historical), with a few slight nods to his Fionavar Tapestry series (which is not urban fantasy at all). I was surprised to find it, but it's an excellent read.
posted by ashirys at 8:20 AM on September 16, 2011

Seriously, consider breaking into the realm of "young adult" books, LA Meyer's series "Bloody Jack" is amazing! I also liked Eon Colfer's "Artimis Foul" books the "Eregon" series may be too high fiction, but if she likes vampires (and hasn't read them yet) "Twilight" series? "Wicked" is pretty good too. "The year my life went down the loo" by Katie Maxwell is hysterical too! I could go on for ages, I have read so many of these at the suggestion of my son and middle school students. Due to the age group intended for there is not a lot of deep thought needed, but it sure does have excellent writing to capture your attention.

posted by Jayed at 8:41 AM on September 16, 2011

I'm just like your girlfriend and I love Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. It's wonderfully escapist and is truly well-written.
posted by Specklet at 9:15 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about Neil Gaiman's non-kids, non-graphic novel stuff?
I'm thinking American Gods, Anansi Boys, Neverwhere.
All amazon links, sorry
posted by bluejayway at 9:38 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lilith Saintcrow's books would fit the bill - Working for the Devil is a good place to start. Also:
Adrian Phoenix's A Rush of Wings
Justina Robson's Keeping It Real
Jennifer Rardin's Once Bitten, Twice Shy

All these are the first in a series.

In a somewhat different vein, if she would like some batshit insanity thrown into the urban fantasy mix, she might enjoy Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar.
posted by unsub at 10:17 AM on September 16, 2011

I'm the one who posted the original thread that restless nomad links to and yeah I'd say you are getting good advice above.

One thing: I've seen many people recommend China Mieville's books here (including in my thread). This is NOT, I repeat NOT what she is looking for.

I'm reading Ilona Andrews right now, perfect. I think Diana Galbaldon's series is great too (though it is more historical fiction than urban fantasy) and fits in with her likes.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:18 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Came in to suggest things that have already been mentioned above, like McKinley's Sunshine. Still... Yes, yes, yes! for Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels books. And don't miss the Edge series (book 1, On the Edge) from same author. Some magic, but also trips to Wal-Mart. Really.

Also consider:
Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series - book 1, Ill Wind
Ann Aguirre's Corine Solomon series - book 1, Blue Diablo
(And Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series, but it's sci-fi / space, not urban fantasy.)
Vicki Pettersson's Signs of the Zodiac series - book 1, Scent of Shadows
Jaye Wells' Sabina Kane series - book 1, Red-Headed Stepchild
C.E. Murphy's Negotiator trilogy (starts with Heart of Stone) and Walker Papers series (starts with Urban Shaman)

Definitely go with Jayed's suggestion of YA books. Lots of great stuff to find there, including Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series and Alyson Noel's The Immortals books.

(Almost hate to suggest this, as it's more romance than urban fantasy, but J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series might be up your girlfriend's alley. That stuff is pure crack.)
posted by southpaw at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2011

I'll third the Gail Carriger recommendation. Her books are really good fun. Quick, easy reads.
posted by Fence at 12:37 PM on September 16, 2011

Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job. Sewer harpies and lots of fun.
posted by Corvid at 1:40 PM on September 16, 2011

Let the Right One In and Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

They are thought-provoking, but actual thought is not really required. Vampires and zombies.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:41 PM on September 16, 2011

Nthing Mike Carey, Seanan Macguire, Tanya Huff, Richard Kadrey, Christopher Moore and Kate Griffin. I've read just about all of their urban fantasy - they get scattered around the bookstores, by the way, because nobody can quite figure out just where they belong - and loved them all. She might also like Patricia Briggs' Mercy Blake series and Ilona Andrews' Magic Bites series. Charles de Lint is the grandaddy of urban fantasy but might be a little less down and dirty PI than the others and I am also kind of, um, surprised by the recommendation of Murakami. I mean, don't get me wrong, he's a genius, but light and easy reading in the urban fantasy genre he is not. China Mieville is closer and he's nowhere near there either, except possibly for Kraken.
posted by mygothlaundry at 3:42 PM on September 16, 2011

I forgot Michelle Sagara's Cast In series. She's more straight fantasy - Elantra is not Earth, no way, no how - but if you can get past the different world setting, they're great. Also, Martin Scott aka Martin Millar! As Martin Scott he wrote Thraxas, who is a hardboiled PI in, basically, Cimmeria. Also, Good Fairies of New York and my personal favorites, Lonely Werewolf Girl and Curse of the Werewolf Girl. He's brilliant.
posted by mygothlaundry at 3:53 PM on September 16, 2011

As people noted, there's also Seanan McGuire's other series, published under Mira Grant: Feed and Blackout. Years after the Zombie Apocalypse (caused scientifically, we know the reason, we even know the people), and looking at the changes to society as a result. At the same time, there's mystery, there's political science (the first one is centered around a Presidential campaign). I have not read it, I stress (I get screaming night terrors from things related to zombies), but I am told it's quite good.

She did a series of prequel short stories to the Newsflesh universe, which you can buy from Amazon, or read on her livejournal (Go back to the start and read forwards. The hit comes harder that way.)
posted by mephron at 4:00 PM on September 16, 2011

In addition to several of the others in this thread, I've enjoyed Anton Strout's Simon Candaras series. The main character is an object reader who works for a secret group of paranormal investigators.
posted by bigdamnnerd at 8:45 PM on September 18, 2011

Absolute "yes" to Ilona Andrews, both Magic Bites and The Edge. Another strong favorite is Kim Harrison's series The Hollows (aka Rachel Morgan), which is kind of Sookie Stackhouse in the midwest, with weapons training and a (female) vampire roommate who loves her but whose feelings she cannot return.

Have just discovered a series by Anna Windsor, The Dark Crescent Sisterhood. I don't know about the rest, but the first book is very good and the ratings on Goodreads imply that it gets better as it goes along.
posted by Jaie at 2:30 PM on September 21, 2011

Duh, didn't see Kim Harrison on your original list. I'm sorry. I checked all the other comments carefully, but forgot the original post.
posted by Jaie at 2:34 PM on September 21, 2011

Response by poster: Just wanted to extend a belated THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who responded to this - my then-girlfriend-now-fiancee is continuing to make her way through this list, and she has found lots and lots of books that she loves from it. yay books!
posted by insectosaurus at 5:16 PM on June 22, 2012

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