Sunday, May 17, 2009

Top Five Entries to a Mystery Series

I’m of the belief that you should read every series in chronological order and there is no reason to ever ever break that rule. Now I have been called neurotic and obsessive over this, but I refuse to change my ways. That’s why I’m also called stubborn. One of the major arguments I hear is “Austin, some times the series doesn’t get really good until book three or so.” I still don’t budge. Yet today I’m here to celebrate those books that don’t wait until their third entry. These are series that rock from the very first book.

#5 – Tilt-a-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein

In this book Grabenstein does a great job setting up one of the coolest buddy detective sets. In one corner is Danny Boyle, a 24 year-old slacker who works as a part-time cop for some extra money. In the other is Ceepak who was an MP in Iraq who took a job with the Sea Haven Police Department in order to have a more relaxing situation. Ceepak is an uber-patriot and will always play by the rules. So of course these two will team up when a real-estate tycoon was murdered on the Tilt-a-Whirl. The book is a lot of fun and primarily because of the great creation that is Ceepak.

#4 – The Last Detective by Peter Lovesey

Yes, the first novel in this series is called The Last Detective. I’m sure the final entry will be called The Final Clue, but let’s just focus on the first one for now. This book is a fantastic whodunit that is incredibly intelligent. This book sets up the character of Peter Diamond, a detective who is old-fashioned and very effective in his techniques in solving a crime. In this book an unidentified woman is found naked in a lake without any marks or a murder weapon nearby. What follows is a very satisfying read done by one of the genre’s best.

#3 – Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith

Man I love this book. It’s such a great concept: two cowboys, Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer, are always looking for work as ranch hands. Big Red is the only one of the two who knows how to read and uses that ability to read to Old Red Sherlock Holmes stories that are printed in Harper’s Weekly. The brothers believe that Holmes is a real person and Old Red tries to emulate him whenever they can. They get their chance when a dead body appears at their latest job site. The humor in this book is very fresh and the mystery works really well too.

#2 – Tonight I Said Goodbye by Michael Koryta

It seems that whenever people talk about Koryta, they have to comment on how young he is. They bring that up because he’s really a fantastic writer. In this book, which was published during his senior year at Indiana University, private detectives Lincoln Perry and Joe Pritchard are hired to figure out what really happened with a possible suicide of Wane Weston. They are also looking into the disappearance of Weston’s wife and daughter. The characters are really well established, the humor is intelligently used and the whole book is a rather impressive feat.

#1 – Thirteenth Night by Alan Gordon

Okay, one could argue this really doesn’t count. It is undeniably the beginning of Gordon’s Fools’ Guild series, but this book is actually a sequel to William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Luckily this is my list and I’m saying it counts. Here Gordon brings up the question so many of us asked: “What if all of the fools in Shakespeare’s plays were actually part of an intricate CIA-esque society?” In this novel, Feste returns to Illyria to investigate the murder of Duke Orsino. This has quickly become one of my favorite historical books not only because I love Shakespeare, but because Gordon captures the fantastic wit of the fools while crafting a great plot.


By now many of you may have noticed a common theme for this list. That’s right! All of these authors mentioned are scheduled for to attend BoucherCon 2009 this year, which will be held in Indianapolis. I’m sure if you ask nicely they would happy to sign any of the books mentioned in this article provided you properly match up the book with the correct author.

Originally written for Pomp & Circumstantial Evidence. Learn more about that at

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