Anne here, continuing our discussion of mystery/crime stories. It started when I mentioned on our Word Wench loop that I was going to talk about mystery series, and the wenches started to chat about crime novels they'd been reading. And when the wenches get chatting about books…
So here, as an Ask A Wench post, are the word wenches, chatting about crime novels.
Nicola: I've just ordered Elizabeth Bailey's latest, The Deathly Portent. She writes Georgian crime/romance. I enjoyed the first in the series, The Gilded Shroud, very much so am looking forward to this one.
Cara/Andrea: Oh, must look for that one too, Nicola. The first one was great.
Anne: I've been meaning to order it. I used to love her historicals. Her FRIDAY DREAMING is one of my all time favorite Regencies.
Joanna: Lately I've been reading my way through the C.S. Harris mysteries. They're set in my own time period. Regency mysteries. And a long-time favorite Historical Romance author, Roberta Gellis, wrote a series of Medieval mysteries solved by the formidable Magdalene la Bâtarde, madame of the local brothel. The series starts with A Mortal Bane.
I'm about to read an Anne Perry (I had dinner with her once at the Surrey International Writers Conference. We agreed that Fouché was the most interesting figure of the Revolution.) as soon as I finish the CS Harris I'm in the middle of. How's that for Historical Mystery?
Jo: I like the Gellis ones a lot, especially as she shows how being a whore in theright circumstances could be a better option. I always like the way Gellis doesn't pander to conventional, modern expectations.
Cara/Andrea: I enjoy Anne Perry's books, especially the later Hester and Monk ones. I feel she does a good job at peeling back the layers of personalities, and deals with the complex conflicts of human nature in a thoughtful way. It seems to me she grapples with the good and evil that is inside everyone, and how people choose one path or another—and tells a good story in doing so.
Nicola: Other historical crime I enjoy – Ellis Peters and Susanna Gregory but most of all C. J. Samson. I love his Tudor mysteries featuring Matthew Shardlake. The one about the sinking of the Mary Rose haunted me for days.
Sherrie: Has anyone here read any of the Alexander McCall Smith #1 Ladies Detective Agency books? I have 2 of those as audiobooks. I’m looking forward to them. I also have several of Sue Grafton’s ABC series (A is for Alibi, etc.) and I’m really enjoying them.
Mary Jo: I read the McCall Smith books for the characters and the wonderful sense of a healthy, deeply loved African society.
Sherrie: I’ve also become a rabid Neil Gaiman fan. He writes everything—fantasy, YA, graphic novels, comic books, screenwriting, etc., and has won just about every award there is. I love his The Graveyard Book, about a young man who was raised by ghosts in a graveyard. It’s an odd and charming book with very dark undertones and clever humor.
Anne: I love Neil Gaiman, too, Sherrie, and was lucky enough to hear him talk when he came to Melbourne last year. The Graveyard book is wonderful.
Susan: Neil Gaiman is an amazing writer – my sons love reading his stuff. I've tried Coraline and one or two others. Sherrie, if you like Gaiman and some of the darker fantasy stuff, have you tried Gene Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer series? Deep, beautifully written, moving, challenging and brilliant. I got my sons hooked on those when they were teens, and now they're huge Gene Wolfe fans.
Thinking about historical mysteries, I'd have to say that Lindsay Davis and Falco are probably my favorites, along with Ellis Peters and Cadfael, and Elizabeth Peters everything. I've read more of the Falco and Cadfael series than any other long series.
I love the early Amelia Peabody books, but got overwhelmed with the sheer number of books and fell by the wayside. And I agree, Jo, I did enjoy the other Elizabeth Peters mysteries quite a lot, particularly the art history ones. I was thrilled that she wrote a mystery about a missing Tillman Riemanschneider! <g>
Totally love the Barbara Michaels ones as well. Love ghosts. I watch all those ghost shows on TV. Some of them are beyond stupid, and I still love them.
Susan: Perhaps my favorite perfect mystery, single book, is Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. I wore out a paperback of that one years ago, and bought a new edition a few years back just to read it again. It's excellent. The hospital stuff for the Inspector is of course dated (he's laid up in traction in the hospital, deals with a robust and bossy nurse, and out of boredom tackles the enigma of Richard III) but that can be seen in a historical perspective by now! And the rest is just classic, brilliant sleuthing and characterization.
Mary Jo: I'm another lover of Tey's THE DAUGHTER OF TIME It made me a confirmed fan of Richard III. <g>
Nicola: Oh yes! I love all Josephine Tey's mysteries but that one will always be closest to my heart!
Anne: My latest glom is Louise Penny. I read the first one while on the plane heading to my retreat a couple of weeks ago and ordered the rest of the series when I landed. They arrived last week and I've now read all except the last. I like crime, especially cosy crime that's beautifully observant about people, which this is. And I have very fond memories of Quebec from many years ago, so it's lovely to revisit.
Cara/Andrea: Anne, thanks for the mention of Louise Penny. I have been hearing wonderful things about this series and meant to get one of them, Now it's moved right to the top of the Must Get list. I think she's going to be at the mystery conference I'm going to in Washington DC later this month, so will look forward to meeting her too. The conference is much smaller and more low-key than RWA.
Authors all tend to hang out in an author's lounge during the day, and last year I got to sit around and chat with Rhys Bowen, whose Royal Spyness series I love.
This year another favorite of mine, Charles Finch is on the list of attendees—as is Elizabeth Peters! I think she's in her mid-eighties, so not sure how much time she'll spend in public, but she really is one of my all-time favorites, so would love to just rub shoulders with her for a bit.
Joanna: I signed next to Rhys Bowen at RT last year. (I think it was last year.) I told her I loved Her Royal Spyness. Very nice woman. Interestingly enough, RT seems to be good for mystery writers too. She was very popular.
Cara/Andrea: Oh, fun, Joanna. Yes, she's delightful. And as the Spyness books have a fun romance element, they definitely cross over to romance readers.
Anne: I am so envious of you guys who have conferences all around you and famous and beloved authors attending. We really do suffer the Tyranny of Distance here (title of a famous Australian history book.) I love the Rhys Bowen books — Mary Jo put me onto her last year. And Elizabeth Peters — Crocodile on the Sandbank is an all time fave, of course and I also loved Die for Love. I've never heard of Charles Finch. Will investigate. Thanks
Cara/Andrea: Anne, Crocodile on the Sandbank is one of my all-time favorites. I adore Amelia and Emerson, and the start of the series has some priceless moments.
Charles Finch writes a very nice Victorian mystery series. It's very low-key with charming characters and well-woven plots. I like his writing, so do give him a try. The first book of the series, A Beautiful Blue Death, won a lot of awards.
Yes, we are lucky in that conferences do allow a chance to meet favorite authors.
Joanna: I'm going to join everybody else in loving Elizabeth Peters and the remarkable Peabody and Emerson. I also like her her modern supernatural mysteries written under the name Barbara Michaels. Ammie Come Home is a classic.
Mary Jo: I've read a lot of mysteries in the past, but I'm not much into them these days–I've gotten too wimpy to find murder entertaining, I guess. But like the other Wenches, I adore CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK, though it's because of the hilarious romance and the marvelous voice of Amelia Peabody, who is one of the great historical heroines.
Among modern historical mysteries, I find Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness books, set in England in the early 1930s, to be enormous fun. The heroine, Lady Georgiana, is 34th in line to the throne, being a great granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her position means she's supposed to act like a lady, without having any money to support her royal bloodlines. <g> They're great, frothy fun, especially the one where she's sent as a royal emissary to a royal wedding in Transylvania.
And last but hardly least, I mustn't overlook the Regency chocolate mysteries of our own Cara/Andrea! Writing as Andrea Penrose, she's published two delicious mysteries, SWEET REVENGE and THE COCOA CONSPIRACY. Not only mystery and chocolate, but romance! What more can one ask for????
So, are any of your favorites mentioned here? Any we've missed out? Do you have others to suggest? Go for it.