Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Curious Case of the Intriguing Mystery Books

(Ladder to the sky, colorful building maybe with a mysterious festival happening inside, garbage monster, stretched shadow on a leafy lawn.)

   Now that it is summer time, many people will be doing 'beach reading' or 'airplane reading' which is often used as an excuse to read fun, page-turners. Mysteries are my favorite types of page turners. A couple of months ago I made a list for my parents of my favorite mystery books. I am sharing a modified version here.

1. 'And Then There Were None' by Agatha Christie. In this book, ten people who have committed past misdeeds are invited to an island house. But soon, their numbers begin to dwindle...due to murder! Who is behind the murders and why?
    Agatha Christie is of course one of the masters of the genre and this book in particular exemplifies why she deserves her spot in the mystery writers hall of fame. This book is intriguing, suspenseful, and full of twists. Some of my other favorite Christie books are 'Peril at End House,' 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd' and 'The Mysterious Affair at Styles.' 

2. 'Case Histories' by Kate Atkinson. In 'Case Histories' Jackson Brodie must solve three seemingly unconnected mysteries involving family tragedy. 
  I love Kate Atkinson. She has a witty and sometimes playfully cheeky tone to her writing but this is complimented by her talent at characterization. Her characters are infused with such heart that they feel like real and believable people. This book's mystery-solver is Jackson Brodie and his mystery solving adventures are expanded upon in later books, all of which are wonderful. They are called in order 'One Good Turn', 'When Will There Be Good News?' and 'Started Early, Took the Dog.' 

3. 'The Likeness' by Tana French. A woman who looks exactly like detective Cassie Maddox is murdered and the detective must find out what happened to the murdered woman. 
   This is actually the second in her 'Dublin Murder Squad' series, but it is my favorite. The first book in the series is called 'In The Woods' which is also a fun, page-turner. These books do not need to be read in order, but I think it is more fun to do so. Sometimes her books can be a little too violent and disturbing, but this is made up for by her well developed characters and intriguing plot twists. The other books in this series are 'A Faithful Place' and 'Broken Harbor.'  

4. 'Dark Places' by Gillian Flynn. Libby Day is a survivor of a massacre of her family. Her teen-aged brother is convicted of the crime with the help of Libby's testimony. But, what really happened on that horrible day? 
    I had a hard time picking my favorite novel by Gillian Flynn but I think it has to be 'Dark Places.' I like Gillian Flynn because she is incredible at writing page-turning, plot-twisting books. But she is also an insightful writer who creates worlds that are full of gray instead of black and white. Her other two novels are also great. They are 'Sharp Objects' and 'Gone Girl.' 

5. 'What the Dead Know' by Laura Lippman.  Two girls go missing after visiting the mall and years later, one of them may have been found.
   I listened to this book in audio book form a couple of summers ago when I had an unexpected day off. I spent the whole day outside while working on art projects and listening to this book. It was a delightful day! But the unexpected day-off did not influence my opinion on this book. I would have liked it even if I had listened to it on a bad day. I really like Laura Lippman because I feel like she puts a lot of thought into the social issues she touches upon in her books. Also, she writes her characters with compassion. Her 'Tess Monaghan' books are also a lot of fun too. I wish Tess was my friend in real life. I'd help her solve mysteries. 

6. 'Little Face' by Sophie Hannah. New mother Alice is away from her baby for a couple of hours and when she comes back, she insists the baby in her daughters cradle is not hers. 
   Sophie Hannah is a new favorite. I like her two detectives ( Charlie and Simon).  Her books are full of interesting plots and interesting characters. Her books come out in England well before America which is a bummer because I am ready to read her next book. I already have a hold on it at the library but I have to wait until August when it finally comes to the U.S. Her other books available in the U.S. (and elsewhere, I imagine) are 'Hurting Distance', 'The Point of Rescue,' 'The Other Half Lives,'  'A Room Swept White,' and 'Lasting Damage.'  Her next book which is already out in England is called 'Kind of Cruel.' Also, a lot of her titles for British readers are changed for American readers (and possibly other countries too.) Just a small rant... I think this is so annoying and silly! Why do book publishers feel the need to do this? 

7. 'Rebecca' by Daphne Du Maurier. The narrator of this book meets a rich and handsome man while vacationing in Monte Carlo. They marry each other and she goes to live with him at his estate. But the narrator feels the presence of her husbands late-wife Rebecca everywhere within the house. What really happened to Rebecca?
   I actually saw the Alfred Hitchcock movie before I read the book, but this book was still really good even though I already knew the story. This is a great Gothic mystery full of eerie intrigue.

8. 'The One I Left Behind' by Jennifer Mcmahon. One summer when Reggie was a girl, a serial killer known as Neptune is on a killing spree of young women. Then Reggie's own mother is kidnapped! The book takes place half in the past when the murders happen and half in the present.
 Mcmahon sometimes writes books that are a little too SVUish but they often have a delightful way of mixing the magical with the real, leaving the reader questioning what is what. 'The One I Left Behind' is a departure from both of these aspects and it is an exciting page turner. 

9. 'No Time For Goodbye' by Linwood Barclay. When Cynthia Bigge was fourteen, she woke up to find her entire family missing. What could have happened to them? 
  I figured I should include at least one man on this list. For some reason, I end up enjoying mystery books by women more. But I like Linwood Barclay's characters who are usually affable, level-headed and normal, everyday people. Barclay also writes interesting plots! However, I was not a fan of the first book in his Zack Walker series. I would stick to his stand alone books. Others include 'Never Look Away', 'Fear the Worst' and 'Too Close To Home.' 

10.  All of the Kinsey Milhone, 'Alphabet Mystery' series of books by Sue Grafton. The first one is called 'A is for Alibi' and is about Kinsey Milhone's investigation of a lawyers death. The investigation leads to plot twists and shady characters.
   Sue Grafton's series is the one that really ushered me into the world of mystery novels. I listened to all her books as audio books and afterward wanted to read and listen to more mysteries!  Kinsey Millhone is another person I wish I could be friends with, even though her sassiness sometimes borders on surliness. But she seems to be a lovable grump. However, I have a theory that Grafton has been paid by McDonalds to advertise in her books. Kinsey is constantly going on about how delicious her McDonalds burgers are to the point where it seems a little weird. 

    Well, I don't want to get too carried away with this list, so I will limit it to ten items... except I am going to cheat a little with this honorable mention list. Here they are: Alan Bradleys 'Flavia DeLuce' series, the author Nicci French, Jaqualine Winspear's book 'Masie Dobbs,' Donna Tartt's 'A Sercret History,' and the father of the modern day mystery, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with his 'Sherlock Holmes' books. 
   I made a copy of this list at my libraries page. Here is the link. If you live in Seattle, the list takes you directly to the titles so you can put holds on them. I am not sure, but I think if you live in a city whose library   uses the same program, the list works for you and your library too. I've seen lists made by members libraries besides Seattle, so this is why I think it might work for non-Seattle library users too. 
   I would love to hear other peoples mystery book recommendations! 


Optimistic Existentialist said...

I saw the movie version of 'And Then There Were None' when I was younger and I loved it!

Marieken Hoefnagel said...

I love that sky picture! I have read none of those books, but I will look up the book by Daphne du Maurier, her books were recommended to me before, so I should get it next time I'm at the library.

Mohala Johnson said...

Okay so I must be reading some old and or boring books. I have added a few of these titles for me to check the library for. I enjoyed reading your descriptions as well :D

Amber @ Fauna Finds Flora said...

Keith- I didn't know there was a movie, although I guess it should not surprise me. I will have to watch it!
Marieken- Thanks! Daphne du Maurier is great!
Mohala- Thanks! If you end up reading any of them, I'd love to hear what you think.