Looking for additional Mystery Writers
January 31, 2008 1:13 PM   Subscribe

I have just about exhausted the collections of my favorite mystery writers--looking for other mystery/crime writers that meet my preferences.

I have been reading mysteries for over twenty years, and with increasing frequency since retirement. I have exhausted the writings of Ian Rankin and Henning Mankell ( my favorites ) as well Michael Connelly, John Conolly, Ridley Pearson, Peter Robinson, Ruth Rendell, Martha Grimes, Minnette Walters, John Lesroart, Linda Laplante, James White, Johnathon Kellerman, Dennis Lehane,and Robert Crais. The things which I find most compelling are character development and ones that are embedded in the place (Edinburgh, LA, Boston, England, Ystad Sweden etc). I prefer moody protaganists with all to human flaws and a rich interplay between the characters. I could care less if the protagonist is male or female.

I do not like Patterson, Parker, Evanovich, Lee Child or Woods. I am not at all drawn to characters with excessive "machismo or machisma". I strongly prefer mysteries that are contemporary, non historical and non cutesy. SO help me--I know there are similar questions but I am looking for a particular style and genre. If you are familiar with Rankin, Mankell or Connelly you know what I mean. Many thanks
posted by rmhsinc to Media & Arts (43 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Val McDermid, maybe?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:18 PM on January 31, 2008

I'm reading Borkmann's Point by Hakan Nesser, and I think it might meet your criteria. Setting is a fictional country in Europe though. Swedish author as well.
posted by Grither at 1:19 PM on January 31, 2008

You need to check out George Pelecanos. Terrific crime writer that bases his stories in Washington DC. Great character development. He's really into music and uses it to flesh out his characters a lot of the time. Some are contemporary, some are set in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. I'd start with Right as Rain and go from there.
posted by Atom12 at 1:20 PM on January 31, 2008

If you like Sherlock Holmes at all (and if you can brave the feminism), Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series, starting with "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" is an absolutely delightful read. Moody protagonist, rich interplay, character development, and an absolutely compelling plot interwoven into a familiar setting. I fell in love first time I read it, and I fall in love everytime I reread it.
posted by Phire at 1:21 PM on January 31, 2008

Reginald Hill's Dalziel & Pascoe novels?

I've been frustrated with Stephen Booth, but he's definitely in the Rankin/Hill mode, so YMMV.

James Ellroy's novels aren't necessarily contemporary, but they've definitely got a (very noirish) sense of place.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:22 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tony Hillerman. Julie Scott.
posted by sulaine at 1:23 PM on January 31, 2008

Smith, I mean. Julie Smith.
posted by sulaine at 1:23 PM on January 31, 2008

Check out this thread for more suggestions. I'm going to recommend Janwillem van de Wetering, as I do in every mystery thread - he is awesome.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:28 PM on January 31, 2008

Seconding Pelecanos - DC is like a recurring character in his stories.

James Lee Burke - his Robicheaux (sp?) novels feature a deeply flawed protagonist and are steeped in the scenery of southern Louisiana.
posted by qldaddy at 1:31 PM on January 31, 2008

JD Robb
posted by Sassyfras at 1:32 PM on January 31, 2008

Pelecanos is great. van de Wetering is my favorite mystery writer. He's just fantastic, and most of his books are strongly rooted in Amsterdam with well developed characters. In the US, he's now published by Soho books in a mystery series I've had good luck with.

I quite like Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor novels. He's a bit like a slightly darker Irish version of Ian Rankin.

I like Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza who writes some compelling mysteries set in Brazil.

I actually found out about the last two authors when I read this piece in the WSJ and copied down their names. They were good enough that I still plan to track down all the other writers mentioned.
posted by OmieWise at 1:38 PM on January 31, 2008

Take a look at Marcus Sakey. He's a Chicago-based writer with two books (The Blade Itself and At the City's Edge) set squarely in the city. Both have been well-reviewed.
posted by Work to Live at 1:42 PM on January 31, 2008

seconding Tony Hillerman
posted by onhazier at 1:46 PM on January 31, 2008

I'm not sure if this fits all of your criteria, but Simenon's Maigret series features a great "hero" in Chief Inspector Maigret and it is very much tied to place (Paris). They aren't very traditional mystery novels since often you aren't expected to try to figure out who done it. You sort of just follow Maigret along as he finds the killer, the counterfeiter, whatever. I love them and read them in the original French, but they are almost all available in English online or through used booksellers.

If you start to read these please read them in the order they were or at least just about. It helps avoid confusion and nasty surprises.
posted by ohio at 1:48 PM on January 31, 2008

Nevada Barr has a series about a park ranger (Anna Pigeon). Each book takes place in a different U.S. national park. Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski series is all-Chicago, all the time. Plenty of urban atmosphere.

Both of these series are a bit dark, but not quite as dark as the Rankins I've read. They're contemporary, with flawed protagonists and lots of attention to place. I don't know how they score on the machisma-meter, but they're probably worth a try.

I also remember a series by an Italian woman about a somewhat-corrupt police inspector, but I can't remember her name, his name, or the title of any of the books.

For some one-offs... have you read Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg? Or Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon?
posted by expialidocious at 1:50 PM on January 31, 2008

I guess you know about Laurence Block? In the unlikely chance you don't, maybe start with Eight Million Ways to Die.
posted by cameron.case at 1:52 PM on January 31, 2008

Stuart MacBride's police procedurals about DS Logan MacRae, set in Aberdeen, Scotland and Mark Billingham's DI Tom Thorne novels, set in London. Both sets are best read in order, but particularly so with the MacRae stories.
posted by jamaro at 1:56 PM on January 31, 2008

Giles Blunt. Canadian cop, in a small northern town. Some trouble in his past, some trouble in his present, and likely his future. Place is definitely a character, if you will. The cop, Cardinal, is noir-ish but not in a stereotyped way. Fantastic books. You don't have to read them in order, but it's helpful to do so.

Nthing Pelecanos.

And there are only three in the series (so far), and I've only read two, but John Burdett's Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo are wonderful - his sense of place and the way he builds his characters are pretty damn good.
posted by rtha at 2:12 PM on January 31, 2008

Peter Robinson.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:12 PM on January 31, 2008

Instead of seconding a bunch of things, here are a few names that haven't been mentioned:

Laura Lippmann
James Crumley
Jon Jackson
posted by box at 2:37 PM on January 31, 2008

One more. Crime fiction, not strictly speaking mysteries, but he's really good:

Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark, among other pseudonyms)
posted by box at 2:40 PM on January 31, 2008

The Vicky Bliss series by Elizabeth Peters is good- smart, sassy, excellent locations, and not as quaint as her Amelia Peabody books. It starts with Borrower of the Night but you can skip straight to the rather funnier Street of the Five Moons.
posted by moonlet at 2:43 PM on January 31, 2008

You really have to read Pelecanos, his stuff sounds like exactly what you're looking for. I would encourage you to read his output chronologically so you don't miss some great Easter Eggs.

I would also suggest Jason Starr. His novels are more crime fiction than mystery, but they all take place in New York and are pretty engrossing. I think I've ended up reading all of his books in a sitting or two each.
posted by subclub at 3:03 PM on January 31, 2008

The Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George (some of which are mostly about Barbara Havers); you may have seen the BBC series based on the characters. The books benefit from being read in order because the main characters' personalities and relationships evolve over time. After you get to With No One As Witness, read What Came Before He Shot Her, which tells the story of the events leading up to a murder in the first book from the perpetrator's perspective. Elizabeth George is an American who specializes in British mysteries, and does them very very well.
posted by carmicha at 3:06 PM on January 31, 2008

Karin Fossum (another Swedish author). The early Ellis Peters Inspector Felse books (Welsh borderlands). J. Robert Janes has a series set in WWII France, occasionally a little gory but very moody and dark with a strong sense of place and time. Colin Cotterill's books set in 1970's Laos are awesome. Soho Crime (which publishes both Janes and Cotterill) actually publishes a lot of dark, moody, foreign or foreign-set stuff with an emphasis on character development and sense of place. Some of it is hit or miss in my opinion but I still take a look at the back cover every time I see the logo.
posted by posadnitsa at 3:10 PM on January 31, 2008

Both Pelecanos and Ken Bruen set off my "excessive machismo" meter, for what it's worth. I stopped reading Pelecanos a while back, though, and I take it he's gotten less irritating.

Denise Mina does good books set in Glasgow. She's currently working on a historical series that starts in 1981 and will follow the same protagonist until the present day. It seems like a pretty ambitious series: I think it's simultaneously meant to be an extended biography of the character, a young, working-class, Catholic, female (and all those things matter) reporter named Paddy Meehan, a history of the city, and a comment on the development of journalism and the news media in modern Britain. Anyway, I recommend them, assuming that 1981 is contemporary enough for you. The first two are Field of Blood and The Dead Hour.

I know you don't want historical, but I'm still going to plug Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel, because it fits your other criteria and it's awesome. It's set in Madrid immediately after the Spanish Civil War, and the protagonist is a fascist police officer. Pawel pulls off making you believe that her detective is a basically honorable person without letting you forget that he buys into a system that is deeply, fundamentally evil.
posted by craichead at 3:12 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

JA Jance.
posted by Roach at 3:20 PM on January 31, 2008

In a similar vein to Jonathan Kellerman is Stephen White, who writes a series with a psychologist as protagonist, set in Boulder, CO. As several others have said about their suggestions, the series benefits from being read in order.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:48 PM on January 31, 2008

I liked Laurie King's books about Kate Martinelli, also (in addition to the Mary Russell novels, which don't sound quite like what you're looking for).
posted by leahwrenn at 4:04 PM on January 31, 2008

Have you tried any of the books by Jonathan Kellerman's wife, Faye? They can be hit or miss for me sometimes, but I particularly liked The Ritual Bath, Justice, Prayers For the Dead, Sacred and Profane, and Stalker. They're all set in LA; the main character is a police officer. There's some Jewish themes running through all of the books, but crime/mystery is the main focus.
posted by lemonwheel at 4:20 PM on January 31, 2008

Two more suggestions, but both require forgetting about the no-historical-stuff thing:
Walter Mosley
Kris Nelscott
posted by box at 5:07 PM on January 31, 2008

Joe Lansdale.
posted by Cyrano at 5:39 PM on January 31, 2008

I'm not a huge fan of the genre, but from what you are saying, I suspect you might really enjoy some Christopher Brookmyre. The wiki describes his ouvre as being action, social commentary and politics, but while I couldn't say they aren't action-y, I think they feature flawed, interesting leads, and certainly some interesting twists and turns. I'm often surprised he's not more well known.
posted by Richat at 5:45 PM on January 31, 2008

Thanks to all who took the time and effort to answer. This opens many new possibilities and hours of pleasure
posted by rmhsinc at 6:01 PM on January 31, 2008

Dick Francis?
posted by MadamM at 6:02 PM on January 31, 2008

Booker prize winner John Banville writes mysteries as Benjamin Black and I think they're really good. They're set in Dublin and are very Dublin; his main character Quirke is definitely human enough for you, I think. The books are set in the fifties, which may not be modern enough for you, but he's only finished two so far, so it's not too risky to check 'em out :)
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:20 PM on January 31, 2008

The Inspector Montalbano series by Italian writer Andrea Camilleri might also do the trick. There are about a dozen books in the series, and all are based in a fictional Sicilian town called Vigata. I'm stepping out on a limb here because I haven't yet read the books myself, but a friend of mine has read some of them in the original Italian, which she found delightful because of the clever use of Sicilian dialect that gives a true flavor of the region but in a way that still made the meaning quite clear. The Italian television series based on Camilleri's novels was broadcast with subtitles in Australia when I lived there and it was very well done—wonderful character development from episode to episode, and a perfectly cast, gritty but loveable Commissario Montalbano. The books are not available in English translation in Australia, but many are available from Amazon in the US, and in fact, I ordered a pile of them last week and can't wait to dig in.
posted by amusebuche at 8:04 PM on January 31, 2008

Rex Stout perhaps? I must admit to not having read any of the actual novels or short stories, but if they are half as good as the A&E series based on them they should be great. Based firmly in New York, hell, revolving principally around a single home.
posted by ericales at 8:15 PM on January 31, 2008

Cripes, I can't believe I nearly forgot two of my favorites:

Dana Stabenow - she's got two series going, one with Kate Shugak (Native Alaskan, former investigator for I think the Anchorage DAs office, now lives in the Alaskan bush) and Liam...something, an Alaska state trooper. Both series are set in Alaska; both will put you right there. I prefer the Shugak novels, but the Liam ones are good too. Read the Shugak ones more or less in order for deeper enjoyment.

Donna Leon - American author, but she writes about (contemporary) Venice, as seen through the eyes of her protagonist, Guido Brunetti, a police commissioner. Wonderful series.
posted by rtha at 8:26 PM on January 31, 2008

I really like E.X. Ferrars ; her writing can be moody. You might also like Michael Dibdin . His books are set in Italy.
I also just read a book by someone named Jonathan Burley that was pretty good. I am going to try the rest of his books next.
posted by gt2 at 11:57 PM on January 31, 2008

From the WAIT THERE'S MORE file: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö are a well-known husband-and-wife team of detective writers from Sweden. As a team they planned and wrote a series of ten novels (police procedurals) about the exploits of detectives from the homicide section of the Stockholm police department. They also wrote novels separately. For the Martin Beck series, they plotted and researched each book together, and then wrote alternate chapters.
posted by ptm at 12:41 AM on February 1, 2008

I will absolutely second the Nero Wolfe novels of Rex Stout. The man was voted a Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America for a very good reason. The interplay between Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin is priceless.

Also, I will also plug my own mystery series, with Denton Ward and his partner and fiance Monty Crocetti. You can download the first five chapters of each book on my website.

posted by willmize at 12:50 AM on February 1, 2008

Seconding Reginald Hill!
posted by beandip at 5:37 AM on February 1, 2008

« Older Are there any good turn-based RPGs out there?   |   music for girls who hate girls? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.