What's my next binge reading series?
February 16, 2015 5:19 PM   Subscribe

I've powered through three series in a binge, and now I am hungry for more. I need action, maybe some romance, but no horror. Please recommend me some airport fiction that fits my criteria. I'm not looking for anything highbrow here.

So I read, a lot. I've just finished up the In Death series by J.D. Robb, a pen name of Nora Roberts. By tonight I will have finished the last of the Prey series by John Sandford. I've also finished the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. I greatly enjoyed all these books for different reasons.

I liked the large number of books in each series. I liked that each book in all three series involved, on some level, a mystery (OK maybe the Jack Reacher books not so much but still). I liked that the main characters in all three series were badasses. In the case of the In Death books, I liked the romance, although the sex was pretty samey. I liked how both the In Death series and the Prey series have a decent overarching story to them, or at least common characters that are relevant throughout the series.

I've tried other book series and dropped them real fast. For example I like Tom Clancy's early stuff with Jack Ryan and John Clark but I can't handle the gunsturbation that is present in later books. I picked up a few books in the Pendergast series by Preston and Child but what I expected (badass investigations by badass dude) wasn't what I got (monster in the museum!!!). I'm actually OK with paranormal but only when it's billed as such. I guess what I am saying is that Harry Dresden scratches a certain itch, but it's not the same itch as the one Eve Dallas scratches.

If you know of a book series that has the following elements please recommend it to me.
  • At least ten books already published
  • Action and/or mystery
  • Badass main character, gender not specified
  • Same main character throughout the series a plus
  • Romance elements a plus
  • Technology just ahead of ours a plus, definitely nothing set in the past; nineties at the earliest
Thank you very much.
posted by Sternmeyer to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
John Keller series by Lawrence Block
posted by Phssthpok at 5:26 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Robert B. Parker's Spenser books are pretty good at this, except for the technology part. And his idea of romance was... odd. But other than that, I recommend them.

Richard Stark's Parker books also, except that Parker is a criminal. Ditto Donald Westlake's Dortmunder books (Westlake = Stark), except that they're comical.
posted by Etrigan at 5:29 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Stephanie Plum is up to 21 and is about a lady who finagles her way into being a bounty hunter. My mom really likes them and the ones I've read were engaging enough. I don't know if I'd say the main character is badass for certain definitions, but she is resourceful, which is badass in its own way.
posted by foxfirefey at 5:29 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The Lincoln Rhyme series by Jeffrey Deaver seems to fit the bill.

If you can get over the earlier settings (1970s-2000s), the Matthew Scudder series, also by Lawrence Block, and the Harry Bosch books by Michael Connelly are both fantastic.
posted by paulcole at 5:30 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think the Elvis Cole books might work for you.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:41 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Miss Fisher Mysteries by Kerry Greenwood might be up your alley. Bonus: the TV series based on them is excellent.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:41 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Armand Gamache mysteries by Louise Penny (right under the wire at 10 books)
Vorkosogan Series by Lois Bujold McMaster
posted by BoscosMom at 5:42 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

I read all these faithfully! I also enjoy the Lincoln Rhyme series by Jeffrey Deaver. Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware series is exactly what you're looking for!
posted by raisingsand at 5:49 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Forgot to mention three series that did not grab me:
  • Stephanie Plum series: too much comedy. Couldn't make it through the first book.
  • Kay Scarpetta series: started out great, took a nose dive right around when she stopped writing them in first person POV. Very disappointing, loved the Scarpetta character. The niece became... a bit much.
  • Temperance Brennan series: just, ugh. Tore through two of them, hit book three and seriously wondered what the hell happened.

posted by Sternmeyer at 5:57 PM on February 16, 2015

Don't hurt me, it's only eight books so far, but: Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield series. She's a total badass.

Dana Stabenow has two series: Kate Shugak (21 books); Liam Cambell (6 books).
posted by rtha at 6:10 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Longmire series by Craig Johnson. Mystery with Western elements, but current, not set in the past. Longmire is definitely a badass, and there are 10 books, a couple of shorts, and an 11th coming out soon. Romance elements here and there, same main character for the whole series. TV series based on it is excellent.
posted by clone boulevard at 6:24 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Binge away - Harry Bosch 1-17

If you like Harry Dresden, you may also enjoy The Hollows (Rachel Morgan). It's paranormal, it's got actual 3 dimensional characters (and as a big bonus they keep evolving and/or you keep finding out more about them), decent sex/romance scenes, some mystery stuff. It's damn good is what I'm saying.
posted by pyro979 at 6:36 PM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow is delightful - the initial books are set a while back, and not so technologically-hip, but I adored the characters once I got to know them and as the series progresses there is internet and whatnot. The books are primarily set in rural Alaska.

Sue Grafton's "Alphabet Series" is another one that's been around forever - so the earlier books are a bit awkwardly non-tech (the main character uses the LIBRARY to look up info on people!) - but I love the series and, like the Kate Shugak books, things progress nicely into modern times.

I've been working my way through a bunch of James Patterson series - I really liked the Alex Cross books. I'm currently reading the Private series.
posted by VioletU at 6:38 PM on February 16, 2015

Best answer: Came in to suggest the Harry Bosch novels by Michael Connelly but was beaten to the punch, so now I'm thirding the idea. I think they'd be perfect for you.
posted by meggan at 6:47 PM on February 16, 2015

Ben Aaronovitch. Police procedural + Magic and Myth.
posted by kjs4 at 6:58 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Alex Delaware series by Kellerman (James maybe?). Not as good as the prey books but very readable.

Ian Rankin's John Rebus books. Set in Edinburgh, very gritty. Main character is less of a badass and more of a .. drunk. V v popular in Europe. Well written like the prey novels.

John Sandfords other series about Virgil Flowers and Kitt. It's not 20 more books but they exist in the Prey universe. Yes my favourite crime writer, hands down.

Karin Slaughter has a few series of books about Sarah Linton and some other guy that again, all exist in the same universe.

The Cara Black (writer) books set in Paris are good. Leduc detective. Tend to have twisty, le Carre type plots.

I find the James Patterson, Harry Bosch etc to be a tier down from these in terms of writing female characters, being cliche ridden etc. Sue Grafton and the Kate Shugak books are somewhere in between in terms of quality and very readable.
posted by fshgrl at 7:03 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Linda Fairstein's Alex Cooper series?

I'd also recommend Alafair Burke's books--the Ellie Hatcher series is the longest, with 5 books, but she's written a bunch of other books as well.
posted by ferret branca at 7:12 PM on February 16, 2015

The Outlanderseries ! I was totally obsessed with them this summer.
posted by mchorn at 7:39 PM on February 16, 2015

Big second for Sandford's Virgil Flowers series.
posted by madmethods at 7:40 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also love the Harry Bosch books and the accompanying Lincoln Lawyer series (there are also a few about a lawyer named Jack McCoy.
posted by radioamy at 7:42 PM on February 16, 2015

Mark Billingham's D.I. Tom Thorne series might work.
posted by RRgal at 7:54 PM on February 16, 2015

Totally seconding the Ben Aaronovitch. He was a writer for Dr Who and the Rivers of London is some high quality supernatural police procedural. I loved it. 5 books so far.
posted by irisclara at 7:56 PM on February 16, 2015

My understanding is that James Patterson is basically the most prolific author currently working in America. He has two major series: Alex Cross and Women's Murder Club. Both fit the bill, but I like the latter better.
posted by decathecting at 7:59 PM on February 16, 2015

Oh, also, if you want some romance and strong female characters with your mystery, try the Rizzoli and Isles books by Tess Gerritson, which are much better than the TV series based on them.
posted by decathecting at 8:03 PM on February 16, 2015

Boy do I have the books for you! Try the "Dave Robicheaux" series of stories by James Lee Burke. He is a ridiculously fine writer in any genre, having won many many awards over the years. He has several other protagonists but I think the Robicheaux books have the most articulated character, and they span over many many years. The writing in the first books is quite good, but it gets better and better. Enjoy!
posted by jcworth at 8:22 PM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Seconding Ian Rankin's John Rebus series.
posted by snez at 8:36 PM on February 16, 2015

Lessee ... The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison. It's lots of fun. "Sippery Jim" DiGriz is definitely a bad-ass.

Not really what you asked for but I'll recommend them anyway: Fletch by Gregory McDonald. I want to shout it from the rooftops: the books are nothing like the movies. Irwin Maurice Fletcher is a different kind of bad-ass.

Only 7 of these (so far), but I suspect Richard Kadrey will keep writing them as long as people like me keep reading them: Sandman Slim.

The quality of the books in each of these series tends to vary, but overall the main character in each of them is a highly memorable bad-ass in their own way. And - never really thought about it until now - while they aren't by any means "funny", each of the protagonists above has a certain unique humor and wit to them.
posted by doctor tough love at 9:01 PM on February 16, 2015

Peter Robinson's Inspector Alan Banks series and Stuart MacBride's Logan McRae novels.

2nding Billingham's Tom Thorne books.
posted by jamaro at 9:01 PM on February 16, 2015

I was also going to say Harry Bosch. The first one isn't the strongest (though it's fine), but it gets good by #3.
posted by slidell at 9:12 PM on February 16, 2015

I second Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield series. Awesome series
posted by gt2 at 10:02 PM on February 16, 2015

I really recommend Daniel Silva also.
posted by gt2 at 10:03 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you can stand a little history (the series starts in 1962), I enthusiastically second Etrigan's suggestion of the Parker series by Donald E. Westlake, writing as Richard Stark. There's 24 of them, and Parker is about as badass as they come, but professional -- very professional. Be sure to read them in order if you can; they're stand-alone novels, but they build on each other.

Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield is another excellent series, and fascinating to see how her methods have changed as the world has changed. She used to fly in and out of airports using cash, now she mostly drives; finding a phone booth to make an anonymous call home is harder and harder.

By the way, both these characters are serious people who are forced to kick the sh*t out of people on a regular basis. I'm assuming that's what you mean by "badass," rather than "somebody with an attitude." (And no, I have no idea why I love these two so much, and I don't intend to think about it right now, thank you.)
posted by kestralwing at 11:18 PM on February 16, 2015

Kick ass? That's the V I Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:20 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Iain Pears' Jonathan Argyll (art history mysteries) series is a little short (only 7 books) but is amazingly fun, enjoyable reading. The first book is The Raphael Affair.

It is a mystery series with a bit of action. The Jonathan isn't a badass but his sidekick Flavia rocks and so does one of the villains. There is definitely a touch of romance but it is not a romance series. It is set in the present.
posted by LittleMy at 5:03 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

If the Pendergast series was almost but not quite right, you might like the shorter Gideon Crewe series by the same authors.
posted by phunniemee at 5:48 AM on February 17, 2015

I recently read the entire Longmire series, so I'll second those.

While looking for cheap Kindle books on Amazon a few weeks ago, I stumbled on T. A. Pratt's Marla Mason series. It's up to seven books, with some short stories as well, and features an entirely badass sorcerer named Marla Mason and her adventures defending her city. She has sidekicks, allies, and enemies who show up in every book. The premise sounds pretty dorky, but the books do a nice job exploring the morality of what Marla does, and the author really doesn't pull any punches about the consequences of her choices.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:19 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wilbur Smith's Egypt series!
posted by Gusaroo at 7:36 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

The type of books you just described is my favorite!

Here are some of my favorite series:

-Camel Club series - David Baldacci (I started & stopped the first book a couple times, but then once I made it through that Id devoured them!)
-Will Robie series - David Baldacci
-John Puller series - David Baldacci
-Gabriel Allon series - Daniel Silva
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 8:29 AM on February 17, 2015

I'll second the Lincoln Rhyme books by Jeffery Deaver. There are 11 so far. A whole cast of regular characters, the main one being a grumpy, sarcastic forensic badass. He also has a badass sidekick - a female, fast-car driving, wicked with a gun police officer. Lincoln Rhyme is a former NYPD Homicide Detective who is now a Forensic Consultant with the Dept. since he became a quadriplegic. He is partnered with Amelia Sachs who acts as his eyes as she walks crime scenes.
posted by kitcat at 11:15 AM on February 17, 2015

I know you're asking for more modern stuff, but I highly recommend the granddaddy of them all, John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series. Definitely a bit dated in terms of gender dynamics, especially the early ones, but man that guy could tell a story.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:29 AM on February 17, 2015

Seconding Sandman Slim; urban fantasy, but more tattoos and drinking than Harry Dresden, and Kadrey knows more about Los Angeles (the primary setting) than Jim Butcher does about Chicago.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:19 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Clive Cussler! Light breezy ripping adventure, lots of books, Dirk Pitt somewhat of a badass
posted by markjamesmurphy at 3:10 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Joe Lansdale's Hap and Leonard books?
I've only read Bad Chili, so I'm not sure how the whole series stands up.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:49 PM on February 17, 2015

Bill Pronzini's "Nameless Detective" series, Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone series. Lots of books, 70s to the present, interesting ongoing characters and mysteries.
posted by mermayd at 3:49 AM on February 18, 2015

Seconding Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. Fits the bill perfectly and I don't think you'll notice any issues with the technology being dated.
posted by GatorDavid at 7:04 AM on February 18, 2015

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