It’s a Mystery!

Mystery readers love books in series. For proof of this statement, talk to a person who is obsessed with reading mysteries, and I contend you will quickly find that their love of the genre is often character-driven. By this, I mean that the main character—the detective in many cases—is the reason they read the books, and that character reappears throughout the books.
I am hooked on three writers of mysteries. When I say hooked, that’s just what I mean—I love their work so much that it sends me into withdrawal to have a book end and know that I probably have to wait a year before the next one comes out. These three writers who captivate me so are Margaret Maron, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and Louise Penny.
Margaret Maron is a North Carolinian who has written two series. The first features Sigrid Harald, and those books are set in New York. After a few Harald mysteries, Maron moved to the character of Judge Deborah Knott, a lawyer, daughter of a prominent moonshiner, and district court judge. In Maron’s most recent outing, Sigrid Harald meets Deborah Knott while Knott is in New York with her husband. [This cute full-circle thing can be observed in the late, great Robert B. Parker’s work when the inimitable Spenser meets Jesse Stone, and again when Jesse Stone dates Sunny Randall]. Maron’s work grabs me in part because the settings are often familiar and favorite places in North Carolina—the Seagrove pottery area, the High Point Furniture market, the mountains above Asheville. But beyond that, the character of Deborah Knott is so well-drawn, so multidimensional, that I am pulled into the narratives quickly. Maron is a gifted writer who is deserving of wider recognition.
Julia Spencer-Fleming crossed my reading radar several years ago. Her main character is a female Episcopalian priest whose closest friend in town is the married chief of police. My daughter says that the early books have lots of UST—unresolved sexual tension. Spencer-Fleming had one less-than-satisfactory [to me] book where she tidied that relationship up, and then hit a home run with her most recent One Was a Soldier. The main character, the Rev. Clare Fergusson, is like Deborah Knott—full of conflicts and interests that keep the plots moving quickly. My only complain about Ms. Spencer-Fleming is that she writes too slowly—the next book won’t be out until summer of 2013.
My newest fictional friend is Armand Gamache, the Chief Inspector from Quebec created by Canadian author Louise Penny. I have to say that I did not at first think these books were wonderful. In fact, I asked my daughter if they were, perhaps, translated from the French because I thought some of the writing was awkward. Initially, they were nearly all set in the same little town of Three Pines, and it seemed that it had an unlikely amount of crime for such a tiny place. However, I was finally convinced by The Cruelest Month and specifically Chief Inspector Gamache, who seems almost saintly. That made the brand new The Beautiful Mystery, just released in August, 2012, one of my most anticipated reads of recent months. It did not disappoint. For one thing, Penny moved the setting to a monastery deep in Quebec, giving those dear inhabitants of Three Pines a rest from murders and betrayal. The battle Gamache has on his hands with real evil is clearly written. The stakes for him have not been higher and the conclusion leaves the reader breathlessly waiting for the next in this special series.
So, if you like strongly written, multidimensional characters and plots and settings that support them, I recommend you pick up one of these authors soon—at your local library, of course!

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One Response to It’s a Mystery!

  1. Marge Mey says:

    Thanks, Diane for the recommendation on Louise Penny. Tried to read her once before, and like you just didn’t get what the fuss was about. Picked up the latest one and was captivated. Now have a new mystery author that will give me hours of pleasure. Hope your recovery has been complete and you are back to your “normal” self.

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