Seeking Metaphysical Mystery Tour
November 29, 2013 8:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for literary crime novels. (Examples within.)

I enjoy mystery novels in general but what I really love are detective stories wrapped up in the trappings of literary fiction, or maybe literary fiction that's secretly a mystery. The kind of book I mean has a plot but it's often interrupted by philosophical digressions, or it turns out the detective is solving a mystery about themselves that's more important than the crime, or something like that.

Some examples of books I've enjoyed (some of which are pretty obscure, I'm afraid):

Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn
Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt series
Mauricio De Giovanni's Commisario Ricciardi series
Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman
Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection
John Goldbach's The Devil and the Detective
Sergio De La Pava's Personae

Can you offer me any other suggestions in a similar vein?

(I've seen a related question asked about sci-fi books; I'm not looking for sci-fi per se though I wouldn't rule it out.)
posted by mlle valentine to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Auster's New York Trilogy might be exactly what you're looking for.
posted by griphus at 8:36 AM on November 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.
posted by griphus at 8:38 AM on November 29, 2013

Best answer: The Athenian Murders
The Quincunx
The Unburied (definitely!)
The Name of the Rose

ETA: Oh, oh, oh Fallen Angel: The Roth Trilogy
posted by Ziggy500 at 8:42 AM on November 29, 2013

I just yesterday finished Night Film, which I loved and seems to fit your criteria.
posted by lyssabee at 8:48 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Carlo Emilio Gadda—That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana
posted by misteraitch at 8:50 AM on November 29, 2013

I second The Quincunx and The Name of the Rose. I would also add The Brothers Karamazov. It is ostensibly a murder mystery, but it tackles a whole host of sprawling philosophical issues. It's kind of a long book, though.
posted by Quaversalis at 8:59 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Foucault's Pendulum would be another good one from Eco.

A little further away from detective stuff but still highly enjoyable: Our Man In Havana
posted by carsonb at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Let's see if I can work a little closer to the modern era, if again a little further from 'detective' (though there's definitely a lot of searching for what happened): The Echo Maker
posted by carsonb at 9:11 AM on November 29, 2013

Mieville's The City and The City, maybe?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:25 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union.

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears.

I also ditto the Eco recommendations.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:29 AM on November 29, 2013

Response by poster: (Thanks, everyone! I have read and enjoyed some of your suggestions already, oops--my fault for not providing a complete list above--which bodes well for the rest of them!)
posted by mlle valentine at 9:31 AM on November 29, 2013

The Round House by Louise Erdrich.
posted by katieanne at 9:58 AM on November 29, 2013

The Wallander series by Henning Mankell, and the Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson. Crime/mystery novels, but written well and with other stories going on besides the crime.
posted by sarahparah at 10:02 AM on November 29, 2013

Stanislaw Lem, The Investigation. Customer reviews on the linked Amazon page are mixed but I think it's largely because they didn't get what they were expecting.
posted by dfan at 10:04 AM on November 29, 2013

Best answer: If you enjoyed The Name of the Rose and The Quincunx, I would suggest The Eight.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:36 AM on November 29, 2013

Best answer: Night Train by Martin Amis and Paul Auster's New York Trilogy.
posted by dortmunder at 11:08 AM on November 29, 2013

Literary appropriations of the detective novel:

Alain Robbe-Grillet, The Erasers
Friedrich Durrenmatt, The Inspector Barlach Mysteries

Detective fiction with religious/philosophical overtones:

Jan Willem van de Wetering's Grijpstra and de Gier series (strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism)
posted by thomas j wise at 11:32 AM on November 29, 2013

The Yiddish Policeman's Union for sure. It sits at the nexus of crime novel, alternate history, AND just general all around amazing book.
posted by Sara C. at 11:37 AM on November 29, 2013

Also, The Alienist is a little more traditional crime novel and a little less literary fiction, but it's fun as hell.
posted by Sara C. at 11:39 AM on November 29, 2013

The Search for Joseph Tully by William Hallahan if you can't find it I can lend you my copy.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 3:21 PM on November 29, 2013

One half of Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor is about the investigation of a series of murders.
posted by Nomyte at 5:47 PM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Turnaround by George Pelecanos, maybe.
posted by aka burlap at 9:17 PM on November 29, 2013

Ditto New York Trilogy and The Name of the Rose.
I liked Quincunx, but it's as much (maybe more) a Dickensian tale in the Great Expectations kind of mode as it is a mystery.

Some others:
The Telling of Lies by Timothy Findley
A Philosophical Investigation and the Bernie Gunther stories by Philip Kerr
Word Made Flesh by Jack O'Connell
The Paris Enigma by Pablo De Santis
The Erast Fandorin stories
posted by juv3nal at 4:42 AM on November 30, 2013

The Your Face Tomorrow Trilogy by Javier Marias
posted by dizziest at 12:11 PM on December 1, 2013

Response by poster: I have a lot of reading to look forward to! I marked as best answers the books that I picked up (enjoyed Night Train, currently reading The Eight) and some more whose descriptions really excited me. But everything sounds promising, really.

Also, as I mentioned upthread, I had previously read and liked some of the titles suggested, including Name of the Rose, The City and the City, The Man Who Was Thursday, NY clearly you understood my criteria.

Thanks, everyone!
posted by mlle valentine at 9:47 AM on December 26, 2013

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