More reading material, please
October 19, 2013 10:51 AM   Subscribe

My partner keeps rereading the Phrynee Fisher series. He likes them because they're on his E-reader, detective stories, and they pass the Bechdel and Russo tests. He likes the characters in these novels: these are relatively happy people for the most part. Please, O MetaFilter. He's ready for a new series. What else is out there?
posted by aniola to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Nicolas Freeling's Van Der Valk series. Also, Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey series.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:37 AM on October 19, 2013

I recently read the first of Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness detective series and enjoyed it very much. It's set in the 1930s, features a plucky female protagonist, passes the Bechdel test, and is pretty happy for a murder mystery. I found it lighthearted and intelligent.

In terms of the Russo Test preference: Rhys Bowen also has another series, the Molly Murphy mysteries, which feature a bohemian lesbian couple from the second book on. I haven't read them and can't vouch for them personally, but they do sound good. This blogger likes both series but prefers the Molly Murphies:

I prefer Bowen’s Molly Murphy mysteries, set in turn-of-the-century New York. They’re a bit darker, set in a slightly-less popular setting, and focus more on the lower classes, exploring a greater range of social groups and classes, while the Royal Spyness books are more frothy brain candy. Though in this case, “brain candy” means intelligent, witty and charming with endearing characters, few dead women, a tolerable love interest, and a typically-smart heroine who has multiple relationships, both friendly and otherwise, with other women.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:48 AM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

My mom, who loves the Phryne Fisher books, also loves the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, of which there are tons. She gets the ebooks from her library.
posted by katemonster at 1:34 PM on October 19, 2013

Response by poster: He says Molly Murphy and Van Der Valk sound like they might be good. Turns out he's also a big fan of variety in class for the characters. More suggestions are still welcome. Thanks!
posted by aniola at 5:04 PM on October 19, 2013

Laurie R. King's Kate Martinelli series passes both tests, if I recall. They are detective novels. I honestly am not sure about the happiness part.
posted by SandiBeech at 5:40 PM on October 19, 2013

How about the Hamish Macbeth series by by M. C. Beaton? They feature a Scottish constable, Hamish Macbeth, in the fictitious coastal town of Lochdubh in west Scotland. There was a TV series of the books, too.

M.C. Beaton is Marion Chesney who writes under several different names, and all her books are lighthearted and fun to read.

Also, what about Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series?
posted by BlueHorse at 6:28 PM on October 19, 2013

Has your partner read the wonderful classic Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L Sayers? They were written in the 30's and the women in the books are wonderfully well rounded people, always treated with respect AS people. I can't remember for certain if most of them pass the Beschdel test, but they are definitely feminist-friendly IMHO.
posted by Caravantea at 6:58 PM on October 19, 2013

Kerry Greenwood, who writes the Phryne Fisher books, also has another series in a contemporary setting, the Corinna Chapman books. I have read all of both series (well, not the newest Phryne, which has only just come out) and although I enjoy the Phryne ones, I think I mostly like the Corinna Chapman ones a bit better. Maybe it's because they're contemporary and although some of the specific places she writes about do not exist, many do. There is a certain amount of fun in reading about your home town. But that probably wouldn't work for your partner!

Depending on his feelings about fantasy, he might also enjoy Steven Brust's books. The Vlad series, described at the link, has a kind of wisecracking humour to it. They do feature some detection/complicated plots to figure things out, along with some assassinations. Most are pretty light but there are a few exceptions. The Khaavren romances are much funnier and are a kind of homage to Dumas - not so much on the mystery, they are more straight-out adventures.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:42 AM on October 20, 2013

I don't know if these series specifically meet either the Russo or Bechdel, but they do contain strong female characters, some gay characters (pretty obvious but not stated outright) and multiple classes (I think most historical mysteries do because in some ways a working class character is much more identifiable to modern readers than a upper class one). They're also generally on the happy/light side of mysteries although not as light as Phyre (which is almost too light for me).

Listed by author and then main character with (for what it's worth) my opinions about each. The ones with a * have a male detective so your partner may or may not want to avoid them (obviously harder to meet the Bechdel test if your protagonist is male).

Victoria Thompson, Gaslight Mysteries - set in NYC just after the turn of the last century (same time as Molly Murphy Mysteries); just started reading the series but I really like them especially compared to the other series set in the same time period also starring a spunky modern female
*Barbara Cleverly, Joe Sandilands Mysteries - love it; starts off in India under the British rule, 1920s
*Barbara Hambly, Benjamin January Mysteries - set in New Orleans before the civil war, starring a black musician/doctor. Love these.
Anne Perry, Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Mysteries - set in Victorian London. Pretty good. I think she has another series starring another couple - one's about a police officer and a formerly upper-class woman, the other has a nurse who worked with Nightingale and another police officer? The time periods are also very similar. One series has house names for titles and the other has street names. Anyway, they're both pretty good series.
Rhys Bowen, Molly Murphy Mysteries - plucky female who solves crimes and male who tags after her; turn of the century NYC
Rhys Bowen, Her Royal Spyness Mysteries - set in various places in Europe in the 1920s; very light but entertaining; I like this series better than the Maisie Dobbs series (also set in the 1920s) but for some reason the Dobbs series is considered more literary
Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs Series - England, between the wars; started okay, got worse; the last one I didn't even finish; main character is a total Mary-Sue character and spends too long leading men on but won't admit she'd like to be single
*Lindsay Davis, Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries - set in ancient Rome and the edge of the empire; entertaining and I hope she researched well because this is now my image of ancient Rome
*Charles Finch, Charles Lenox Mysteries - I read these but they haven't stuck in my mind; I'd still pick them up if I saw them
Carola Dunn, Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries - I've totally mixed these up with the Royal Spyness ones, but I think they're pretty similar - light and based in the 1920s
Peter Tremayne, Sister Fidelma Mysteries - gets very repetative; main character is another very modern perfect woman which drives me crazy; good for learning about ancient Ireland
*Boris Akunin, Erast Fandorin Mysteries - translated from Russian so it reads a little off but pretty entertaining; good for learning about historical Russia, bleakest of these series
Clara Black, Aimee Leduc - I'm not sure how she still has friends that will help her out but there's one always popping up just in the nick of time; probably not that bad if you don't read like 4 in a row
*Rebecca Pawel, Tejada Mysteries (#4 is The Summer Snow and easiest to find) - post-WWII Spain; I loved it and wish there were more in the series
posted by hydrobatidae at 10:21 AM on October 21, 2013 I know fire & Ice is pretty good, and has lots of lesbian characters. Strange Robby also has some. Apparently so do many of her books.
posted by Jacen at 7:32 AM on October 23, 2013

The first book is currently (as of November 14) available free on Kindle: Cocaine Blues.
posted by Lexica at 11:27 AM on November 14, 2013

Response by poster: He's currently devouring the Flavia de Luce murder mystery novels by Alan Bradley. They don't pass the Russo test so far but they do pass the Bechdel test.

He likes the language and the great amount of detail that the author manages to work into the text while still staying interesting. He also likes that the main character is a precocious 11 year old girl obsessed with poisons: being an 11 year old girl, she has a certain irrepressible enthusiasm.
posted by aniola at 10:08 PM on March 10, 2014

Response by poster: see also
posted by aniola at 2:39 PM on July 4, 2014

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