Monday, January 4, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru, I love mysteries but I really need some new authors to add to my list. Do you have any suggestions? Mystery Maven

Dear Mystery Maven, I have some wonderful writers I’m going to recommend. But first, let me tell you that I too love mysteries but only those that give me a strong insight into another world whether it be village, town, city or country. The Agatha Raisin Series by M.C. Beaton is a favorite. I guess it could be called a British “cozy’ in that it envelops us in British village life while, oh yes, solving a mystery. Agatha Raisin is middle-aged, vaguely glamorous figure from London who “retires” to a small Cotswold village where murder and mayhem resound. The villagers and city folk combine to give us a rich look into the human condition. Funny, it many ways this series reminds me of Sea Cliff Village life, well, without the murders, but certainly with its colorful characters and lovely surroundings. There are over twenty books in this series and I would recommend reading them in order since the characters develop over the span of years. Start with Agatha and the Quiche of Death.

Donna Leon takes us to another world indeed- the beautiful city of Venice. Her recurring detective/hero is Guido Brunetti , truly an accomplished Renaissance man- a reader of Cicero in the Latin, of course, and a gourmand, a thoughtful man who views the world with philosophical detachment. Each of the novels takes on an overarching topic such as industrial pollution, institutional prejudice, illegal adoptions, mercy killings, and child enslavement and then weaves it into the daily social scene of urbane Venice. The descriptions of art, food, familial affection , and some crime make for wonderful novels. There are nineteen books in the series and it is not critical to read them in sequence. While I have read and loved them all, one of my favorites was The Girl of His Dreams.

Two very gritty mysteries set in New York City are also high of my list of books this summer were written by Richard Aleas: Songs of Innocence and Little Girl Lost. These novels reveal a part of New York life that most of us never will experience first hand – lucky us! The hero is a Columbia University grad student who stumbles into the life of the private detective and a world of violence far removed from the classroom. The ending in each case is shocking and horrific and very literate. These two are far removed from Agatha Raisin and her cozy village.

Another chilling read was Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottr set in Iceland. While the core mystery dealt with the macabre – not an overwhelming positive for me-the reason I enjoyed this book so much and would recommend it was that it described life in modern Iceland in exquisite detail . Her characters while interesting paled in significance to the main character: Iceland.

All of these books are available through your library so get reading, my friend!

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