It’s summertime, and in addition to being the season for certain movies it is also (for many of us) the season for certain books or certain types of reading (i.e. beach or other leisure-reading-spot-of choice). I’m pretty eclectic in my leisure reading, and these days seem mostly to gravitate toward nonfiction. However, I am also a fan of work across pretty much every genre. I thought for this edition of Thursday Night Trivia I’d share a few of my favorite mystery series … and get y’all to chime in on what amateur or not-so-amateur detectives you find satisfying to read.
1. Gideon Oliver (Aaron Elkins). Before there was Bones, there was Gideon Oliver. Oliver is a forensic archeologist who would love to spend his time working with the remains of long-dead people from ancient civilizations … but more often then not finds himself dragged in to consult on a modern-day crime scene. Elkins is also the author of two other series, one featuring an art historian and one a golf pro (co-authored with his wife), both of which are fun as well. I also enjoyed his free-standing novel/mystery Loot which is about the plunder of European art during WWII.
2. Amelia Peabody (Elizabeth Peters). Amelia Peabody is a single woman of means in Edwardian England who, following the death of her father, sets on a European tour that eventually takes her to Egypt where she meets not only murder and mayham but also a dashing Egyptologist named Radcliffe Emerson. My mother-in-law refers to these as the “shagging all over upper Egypt” series. The whole series, of which I’ve only read a handful, spans several decades of the early 20th century and includes an extended cast of delightful characters.
3. Homer Kelly (Jane Langton). Before I’d ever been to Boston, I read and loved the Homer Kelly mysteries by Jane Langton, which take place in the Boston area (where Langton lives) and often involve historical and cultural sites such as the Isabella Stuart Gardner museum and Emily Dickinson’s house. My personal favorites include Memorial Hall Murder (the first I ever read), Murder at the Gardner (takes place in the neighborhood I attended grad school and near where I work), and The Face on the Wall which draws on Langton’s affection for children’s fiction.
4. Mary Russell (Laurie R. King). Mary Russell is the woman who single-handedly caused me to re-think my irritation with Sherlock Holmes. Don’t read this series if you’re wedded to the Sherlock canon in a way that doesn’t allow for creative re-interpretation or if you want your Sherlock to be exclusively gay or asexual (just a head’s up). The series begins in Holmes’ retirement and posits the appearance of a teenage orphan (Mary) whom Holmes comes to mentor, work with, and eventually partner with. He’s a very different Sherlock than the one found in the new Sherlock (BBC) but I love them both in equal measure … and Mary is one of my most favorite female sleuths (and a theologist to boot!). Essential to start from the beginning, but I particularly enjoy Monstrous Regiment of Women and Justice Hall.
5. Clare and Richard Ringwood (Katharine Farrer). Author Farrer only gave her professional detective, Richard Ringwood, and his wife Clare three novels: The Missing Link (1952), The Cretan Counterfeit (1954), and The Gownsman’s Gallows (1957). However, for those who enjoy Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers these three are a treat. Go in to them expected some dated gender and racial sterotypes (often cringe-worthy), but if you’re a fan of the British cozies I’d highly recommend them. Rue Morgue Press put out lovely paperback editions in the early 2000s, though they currently don’t seem to be offering them through their catalog. Check your local library network for copies!
What mystery series do you recommend Harpies?