Series fans are a devoted bunch, following their favorite characters through adventure after adventure and sending new installments to the top of bestseller lists. But what to do while you're waiting for the next book?
In the spirit of book fortunes, here are mystery series recommendations based on taste, from cozies to police procedurals to Nordic noir. In each case, we take a wildly popular series and offer a few suggestions for series that are newer or lesser known.
If you like the forensic technology in Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series, try . . .
• The Dr. Claire Waters series by Neal Baer and Jonathan Green, starring forensic psychiatrist Claire Waters and NYPD detective Nick Lawler. Book #1, Kill Switch, is a break-neck story about a serial killer's rampage.
• Jefferson Bass's Body Farm series, starring forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton. Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney called the most recent installment, The Inquisitor's Key, "highly original."
• Andrea Kane's Forensic Instincts series, about a crew of experts "working just a smidgeon outside the law" who solve near-impossible crimes.
If you like Michael Connelly's police procedurals about LAPD detective Harry Bosch, try . . .
• The brand-new Bell Elkins series by Julia Keller, which focuses on the prosecuting attorney in a small town in West Virginia. We loved book #1, A Killing in the Hills, which starts with a bang when three men are murdered in a coffee shop.
• Owen Laukkanen's Stevens and Windermere series, about an FBI special agent and a Minnesota state investigator. Book #2, Criminal Investigator, comes out on March 21, 2013.
If you like Elizabeth George's series about Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley, try . . .
• Louise Penny's Canadian whodunits about Chief Inspector Gamache and his homicide department in Quebec. The latest installment, The Beautiful Mystery, is out this month.
• The excellent police procedurals about the Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French. We loved #4, Broken Harbor—our Top Pick in Fiction for August.
If you like Lilian Jackson Braun's lighthearted "The Cat Who" series of cozy mysteries, try . . .
If you like Sue Grafton's books starring feisty sleuth Kinsey Milhone, try . . .
• Laura Levine's series about wisecracking detective Jaine Austen. We liked Pampered to Death, a clever sendup of health spas. (The victim is strangled with spa-healthy kelp!) Look for Death of A Neighborhood Witch in September.
• Kate White's Bailey Weggins mysteries, about a "smart, savvy, sexy" amateur sleuth.
If you like Stieg Larsson's edgy Millennium Trilogy, try . . .
• Jo Nesbo's gritty series about Oslo investigator Harry Hole.
• Swedish author Hakan Nesser's Chief Inspector van Veeteren series, which Bruce Tierney calls an "absolute must."
• Lars Kepler's Detective Inspector Joona Linna series (also Swedish). Book #2, The Nightmare, came out in July. BookPage contributor Sukey Howard called it "crime fiction with real depth."
• Taylor Stevens' Vanessa Michael Munroe books, which have an assassin-heroine who will remind you more than a little of Lisbeth Salander.
If you like Elizabeth Peters' series about Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, try . . .
• Charles Finch’s atmospheric Victorian mystery series about Parliament member/amateur detective Charles Lenox. BookPage review Barbara Clark called A Burial at Sea an "expertly written adventure." Look for A Death in the Small Hours in November.
• Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, romantic stories about spies in 19th-century Britain.
• Tasha Alexander's historical mysteries about 19th-century English sleuth Lady Emily.
What series do you love?
By the way, if women's fiction series are more your thing, this week's Monday Contest highlights Susan Wiggs' Lakeshore Chronicles series. (You can enter to win 10 books!)
Published in the U.S. in June, Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes has been one of the biggest books of the year. The thriller is about a woman who falls in love with the wrong man, and it deals with heavy topics: domestic abuse, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder. It's a dark and terrifying story, and it can be hard to read.
It's also impossible to put down, which explains its huge success. (The novel was Amazon U.K.'s Best Book of 2011 and Haynes is one of BookPage's 10 women to watch in 2012.)
If Into the Darkest Corner had you cheering the arrival of a new talent in psychological suspense fiction, you'll be ecstatic about this news: This spring, Harper will publish Haynes' second novel, Dark Tide. It sounds equally twisted.
The story is about a woman who saves up to quit her London sales job and start a second life aboard a houseboat in Kent. (Her boat is called "Revenge of the Tide.") Everything's looking up for Genevieve after she buys the boat . . . until a body washes up at the marina. Genevieve recognizes the woman from her secret second job as a dancer at a members' club. Surely her shared past with the victim is just a coincidence. Or is it?
Look for Dark Tide on March 12, 2013. Will you read it? [ETA: The U.K. edition of this novel has already been published, and its title is Revenge of the Tide. So if you're planning a vacation to the U.K. anytime soon, you might be able to read this one early. Lucky you!]
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read an interview with Elizabeth Haynes about Into the Darkest Corner.
One of my favorite thrillers of 2010 was Still Missing by Chevy Stevens, an oh-so-creepy story of a realtor who is abducted at an open house. So I was really excited to see that Stevens praised the "dark and twisted love story" at the heart of Dare Me by Megan Abbott, one of the most buzzed-about suspense tales of August. And how could it not create buzz? Dare Me is about cruel cheerleaders—and what happens when their squad hierarchy is disrupted. (It ain't good.)
Besides Stevens' recommendation, here are a few other reasons why you might pick up Dare Me.
1. You were hooked on the inspiring teamwork on display during the Olympics, but now your cynical side wants to read about the dark side of group competition.
2. You love coming-of-age stories, high school dramas and thrillers. Here you can get a combination!
3. Many people love lighthearted love stories when they're on vacation, but I reach for thrillers—think Stevens or Laura Lippman or Gone Girl. Are you that way too? Labor Day is coming up . . . Reach for this twisted page turner.
Finally, BookPage reviewer Barbara Clark says Dare Me is "poised on the edge of beauty and darkness . . . a book you won’t soon forget."
Here's what stuck out today. Notice any similarities?
Out September 4 from Forge, you can buy Hank Phillippi Ryan's The Other Woman, the first in a new series. This breakneck first installment features a possible serial killer, a fallen-from-grace TV reporter, a Senate candidate facing a sex scandal—and much more.
The latest Joe O'Loughlin thriller from Michael Robotham is out from Mulholland Books on October 2. A husband and wife are murdered in their London home. Is the suspect just a troubled young man . . . or does he have something more to hide? The last O'Loughlin book was our Top Pick in Mystery in March 2012.
Japanese bestseller Keigo Higashino's latest book to hit U.S. shores, Salvation of a Saint, is on sale October 2 from Minotaur. Think murdered husband + a widow/suspect + a detective who has a thing for the woman. Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X was filled with terrific suspense and a complete twist ending. We expect no less from Salvation!
These are all thrillers set in cosmopolitan locales—Boston, London and Tokyo, respectively—and, of course, they all involve murder. But I'm grouping 'em together because of the book jackets. What is it about a long-haired woman wearing a red trench coat and running/walking away?
Have you noticed any funny trends on your book jackets lately? Is red going to be the big color for fall? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
As Bruce Tierney writes in the July Whodunit column, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl "generated more pre-release buzz than just about any other mystery this year, and deservedly so. It is a fiendishly clever tale of a marriage gone toxic, and revenge exacted to a disturbingly lethal degree."
Now that Gone Girl is on the New York Times bestseller list for the 7th week in a row; 20th Century Fox has paid $1.5 million for the film rights (with Reese Witherspoon producing and starring, and Flynn writing the adaptation); and the author is appearing on morning news shows . . . I thought you might want one more nudge to read this brilliant, exciting thriller.
Don't usually like stories of relationships? (Gone Girl is about a marriage-gone-wrong . . . and what happens after a wife mysteriously disappears.) The suspense surrounding a police investigation and attending media frenzy will appeal to thriller fans. With alternating unreliable narrators (the husband and wife) . . . I dare you to guess the ending, let alone keep up with all the lies the characters tell us.
Don't usually read thrillers, but you're intrigued by a complicated husband-and-wife tale? The main character, Amy, studied psychology and writes quizzes for relationship magazines. Her husband, Nick, is a magazine writer. But everything goes downhill after they lose their jobs and move to rural Missouri. Amy's chronicle of their relationship, starting from the day they meet, and Nick's explanation of what happens after Amy disappears, make for fascinating reading. The mystery plot is just an added bonus.
I recommend you purchase this book ASAP—and spend the weekend frantically turning pages!
By the way, if you usually get your books from the library and are frustrated by the number of holds on Gone Girl, you might check out The Expats by Chris Pavone, another smart suspense novel that concerns deceptions in marriage. The books certainly have differences—for one, The Expats is a spy thriller—but I think they will appeal to the same sort of reader. This one came out in March and should have considerably shorter hold lines at your local branch.
Have you read Gone Girl? What thrillers are you recommending this summer?
The July issue of BookPage features a special extended column on six must-read mysteries—all written by women. In today's edition of BookPageXTRA, we called out a seventh terrific thriller: Hell or High Water by Joy Castro.
The novel takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans, and stars Nola Céspedes, a reporter for the Times-Picayune. Nola is assigned a story on missing registered sex offenders in the city. She soon discovers they might be linked to an outbreak of abductions.
BookPage interviewed Castro about the subject matter of her novel, the challenges of writing a thriller and why she loves New Orleans. Here's an excerpt:
Hell or High Water is very vividly set in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina. On your website you explain that your husband is from Louisiana, and you’ve been visiting the city for 20 years. Why does post-Katrina New Orleans make a good setting for a crime novel?
Thank you! Katrina hit in August, 2005, and the book is set in April, 2008.
Hell or High Water works particularly well in post-Katrina New Orleans because the novel looks specifically at sex crimes, which have a long aftermath. There’s the initial trauma, and then there’s the long, difficult, uncertain process of coming back, of healing. Just because offenders are caught and convicted—and often they’re not—does not mean the damage is somehow magically healed. Recovering is a process. It takes time, and it’s frustrating and painful to the survivors, who often don’t get the help they need.
You’re probably already anticipating the analogy. The city of New Orleans, which is still wrestling with the aftermath of Katrina’s devastation, experienced a similar story writ large. The storm itself was over by September, but its fallout, both in terms of the emotional trauma and the practical difficulties of rebuilding, has lasted for years.
No matter how committed they are, survivors can become exhausted, frustrated, heartbroken, fed up. That’s the story I wanted to tell: the story of aftermath. [Read more. . . ]
According to our latest Reader Survey, BookPage readers enjoy mysteries more than any other genre. After hearing this news, we decided to give you an extra dose of suspenseful reading suggestions. In the July edition, look for an extended Whodunit column, highlighting six new novels—all written by women.
Longtime Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney writes:
Hard-core grittiness and violence are now the norm in female-penned suspense novels; romance-laden cozies are no longer the province of the Women of Mystery—if indeed they ever were. So move over Andrew Vachss, step aside Lee Child: There's a new sheriff in town—and he's a she!
What's your favorite thriller of the year, so far?
I was happy to see in Publishers Marketplace that Christopher Pavone, the author of The Expats—one of my favorite thrillers of 2012 (so far)—is writing another book. The Expats was so good because it asks the reader a provocative question: How well do you know your spouse? (In this case, the spouse in question leads a double life as an undercover spy for the CIA.) The novel had everything I look for in a thriller: a fast pace, intriguing characters, an unusual setting (Luxembourg!). If you haven't yet discovered this novel, read an interview with the author from the March edition of BookPage. Do you agree with Pavone's assertion that "most people have no idea what their spouses do all day long"?
Pavone's new book is called The Accident. It, too, is about a CIA agent—a veteran agent "tracking an anonymous manuscript with a shocking secret." I'm looking forward to it. What about you?
There's plenty of talk of summer reading lists as the days grow warmer and longer, but this time, I'm suggesting you add a whole series to your stack. Start with David Downing's Zoo Station and make your way through the adventures of Anglo-American journalist/author/spy John Russell, then grab Downing's newest, Lehrter Station.
This series is best enjoyed from the beginning, and historical suspense fans will agree with Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney, who insists "Downing’s deft weaving of fiction and real-life WWII history is second to none."
We chatted with Downing about the fifth installment in the story of John Russell, and I loved his answer to this question: "If you could travel back in time to any decade, where would you go and what would you do while you were there?" Read his answer.
Will Lehrter Station make your summer reading list?
The April Whodunit column features four standout suspense novels (including "hands-down the best gangster thriller in years"), but my favorite is probably the one about under-employed college grads who turn to . . . kidnapping to pay the bills. Everything's going swimmingly for the characters—their business plan is all about low-ransom, high-volume kidnappings, and they never hurt the victims—until they nab the wrong guy: a man whose wife has mafia connections. Before they know it they're being chased by both the FBI and the mob. I mentioned this book, The Professionals, in a "What we're reading" blog post a couple of months ago, and today it's finally on sale!
I interviewed debut author Owen Laukkanen because I was curious about his unusual background; he's worked as a poker journalist, and now he's a commercial fisherman. I also wondered if he had any good advice (that doesn't involve illegal activity) for young graduates.
Laukkanen gave great answers to my questions. Here's a preview; read the full Q&A on BookPage.com.
What’s the riskiest career option: playing poker, fishing or writing fiction?
Great question! Fishing, writing and card playing are all tough ways to make a living, but with writing, at least, the money tends to dwindle, rather than flat-out disappear. In poker and fishing, there's always the chance that luck will lay a beating on you, and in those instances it's very easy to lose tremendous sums of money very, very quickly.
Fishing, meanwhile, combines those high financial stakes with the very real possibility that you'll injure yourself, or, well, die. It's riskier than poker, but a heck of a lot more fun than hanging out in a casino, and you can take plenty of time off to write.
What career advice would you give a group of recent college graduates who are frustrated with the job market?
Learn a trade. There's this idea that every smart kid in the world needs to go to college to succeed at life, but I really don't see any shame in becoming a plumber or a pipefitter or anything like that. Where I live, at least, there are still plenty of jobs for skilled tradespeople.
For those of us dead set on our arts degrees, though, I think an open mind and a willingness to relocate are pretty important. There are still a lot of fun jobs out there; they might just be in Alaska or Texas and not down the street.
I would not advise anyone to turn to crime, particularly kidnapping!