May Is for Mysteries
May is full of murder and mayhem. At least the literary kind as we celebrate mystery novels and audiobooks. No matter your reading or listening preference, there are mysteries for you. I’ve defined some subgenres and listed a few of my favorite authors.
Cozy: Minimal, non-explicit violence with an amateur sleuth. A lot of cozies feature a sleuth who owns a business like a bookstore or a bakery.
- Susan Wittig Albert: She writes a series featuring amateur China Bayles, former lawyer and current owner of an herb shop. The series is set in a small town in Texas. The author works in a lot of information about herbs and gardening in a fun way that’s interesting to the non-gardener. The first book in the series is Thyme of Death.
- Jenn McKinlay: She writes several cozy series but my favorite is the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries, featuring Mel, Angie, and Tate, childhood friends who’ve opened a cupcakery together. Murder, romance, and recipes come together for some perfect light reading. The first book in the series is Sprinkle With Murder.
Historical mysteries: Exactly what it sounds like – novels set in another era.
- Ellis Peters: Creator of the Brother Cadfael series set in the 12th century featuring a former soldier turned herbalist monk. Also a fabulous tv series with Derek Jacobi playing Cadfael. The series starts with A Morbid Taste for Bones.
- Alan Bradley: Author of the Flavia de Luce mysteries featuring 11 year old Flavia, aspiring chemist and bane of her older sisters. Set in the Post WWII world of England, in a crumbling estate, curious Flavia is constantly exploring and investigating when she isn’t planning how best to poison her sisters. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first in the series.
Police procedural: Focuses on law enforcement which isn’t just the local police; it can focus on crime scene investigators, medical examiners, the FBI.
- JD Robb: This is a Nora Roberts pseudonym. This series is set in New York City of future and features Eve Dallas, a no nonsense lieutenant with a dark past. There’s a bit of romance and some humor to balance the harder edge of the murder in each book.
- Elizabeth George: Author of a series of mysteries set in England featuring the suave and posh Inspector Lynley and his unapologetic diamond in the rough Sergeant Havers. The series features books that are skillfully plotted and weave together both the official investigation that the pair is working on as well as the strands of their sometimes tumultuous personal lives. The series begins with A Great Deliverance.
Private investigator: These can range from contemporary licensed investigators (think Kinsey Milhone) to the more hardboiled noir classics (Sam Spade).
- Robert Crais: Elvis Cole, former military, hides his investigative powers behind Hawaiian shirts and a smart mouth. An updated Sam Spade with a soft heart for damsels in distress and his cat. First book in the series is The Monkey’s Raincoat. The first book in the series on our shelves is Voodoo River.
- Laura Lippman: Tess Monaghan starts this series off as an unemployed investigative reporter. She puts those skills to use to help solve a few mysteries and eventually gets her PI license. The first book in the series is Baltimore Blues.
Thriller: These books are more about excitement and suspense, the thrill of the chase more than the careful piecing together of clues.
- Gillian Flynn: Best known for Gone Girl, all of her books are dark dramas with very twisty plots.
- Megan Abbot: Dare Me shares some traits with Gone Girl – unreliable narrator, darkly and intricately plotted. Dare Me is set in a high school and involves the new cheerleading coach and her squad. A suspicious suicide investigation proves that being on the squad demands a lot more than a pretty smile and athletic ability.