Ask the grumpies: Mystery novel recommendations?

CG says:

I am ALWAYS up for another post with reader book recommendations. I mostly read mysteries, so selfishly I’d like that.

Dame Eleanor Hull adds:

I’ve been sampling cozy mysteries but haven’t found anything as much like what I feel like reading as Agatha Raisin.

#2 and I have different preferences.  I tend towards cozy, where the mystery is kind of incidental and nothing particularly sordid happens.  #2 likes darker stuff– very similar to my mom’s preferences.  All amazon links are affiliate.

Let’s see…


The Countess of Harleigh mysteries by Dianne Freeman are must reads for me.

I liked the Lady Hardcastle mysteries by T E Kinsey, which are kind of amusing farces and you don’t particularly care about anybody, but the other series by the author kills off someone you are made to care about in the first book which was really unexpected given the Hardcastle books.

Agatha Christie

Some of Amanda Quick/Jayne Krentz’s books are actually mysteries (though shelved under romantic suspense)

Shinigami detective series by Honor Raconteur

Inspector Dimm series by Barbara Metzger (these are shelved under romance– they don’t all come up when you search on amazon though)

Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen (also shelved as a romance)

The suck fairy has visited a lot of Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels books since they came out, but the Jacqueline Kirby series books are still pretty good, especially Naked Once More.

KJ Charles read a bunch of Patricia Wentworth novels and liked them– I haven’t tried any yet, but it’s on my to-read list.  Maybe worth trying if your library has some?  Update:  Really enjoying the first one.  Better than a lot of early Agatha Christie, and so far no racism!


Anything by Deanna Raybourne

Dorothy L Sayers

Patricia Ryan’s Nell Sweeney series.

Cas Russell series by S. L. Huang

Death Below Stairs series by Jennifer Ashley

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

Amanda Cross’s Kate Fansler mysteries

Dee Goong An (Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee)

Agatha Raisin

Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley

Grumpy Nation– what are we missing?  What are your mystery recommendations?


32 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Mystery novel recommendations?”

  1. Chelsea Says:

    I love Flavia DeLuce – some of the later books in the series are a little meh, but still a wonderful character.

    I tend to like darker mysteries (warning, some of these are very dark), and some favorite authors are Tana French, Kate Atkinson (Case History series), Kate Morton, and Antony Horowitz.

  2. ZM Says:

    Mystery & police procédurale are my favourite genre across lots of time periods & locations

    I enjoy the work of

    Edmund Crispin – it’s PG Wodehouse humour crossed with Agatha Christie

    Ngaio Marsh (contemporary of Dorothy Sayers) is a New Zealand writer but most of her books are set in the UK

    I LOVE the Sean Duffy series by Adrian McKinty (a Catholic policeman in the Belfast police force during the Troubles. Lashings of black humour. Excellent audio books but lots of swearing. Titles are all Tom Waits songs)

    Also love the John Rebus series by Ian Rankin

    M.C.Beaton’s Hamish McBeth series is fun & cozy

    I’ll be back with more suggestions…

    • ZM Says:

      The Sam Shepherd series by Vanda Symon (junior female cop in modern rural New Zealand)

      Inspector Chen Cap series by Qiu Xiaolong – modem China – police officer who is also a literary writer/translator

      The Brittany Mystery series by Jean-luc Bannalec (northern, coastal France. Lots of food descriptions)

      The Provence mysteries by Cay Rademacher (detective novels set in southern France)

      The Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camelleri (all set in Sicily – also lots of Italian food descriptions). I liked the tv adaptation- it might be on Netflix? Or Amazon?

      Donna Leon’s series of mysteries set in Venice

      • ZM Says:

        For something a bit different- the Athena Club trilogy by Theodora Goss “ Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders — and the bigger mystery of their own origins.”

      • Debbie M Says:

        I am obviously going to have to check out some of these. Woo!

  3. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I finished the Grey Mask— the first Miss Silver book by Patricia Wentworth. It was truly delightful. I gasped audibly at many points. If you like the genre of bright young things (some of whom must work for a living) interacting with evil secret societies (not a spoiler—it’s introduced in the first chapter), this is probably the best I’ve read. Or at least the best that was written in the 20th century. Even better than Christie’s attempts. It really does not read like it was written in 1928. (Including: Not one single anti-Semitic statement!)

  4. HC Says:

    I love this question! One caveat is that I consume a lot of my books by audio – and sometimes the reader can make a difference (good or bad!). I also like some thrillers that are a bit stronger than this query seems to be about (e.g., recent hits for me have been by Mick Herron and S.A. Cosby, among others).

    Best book(s) in class read in 2021: The cabinets of Barnaby Mayne, Elsa Hart. The Li Du series is also great.
    Best book(s) in class read so far in 2022: Thursday murder club series, Richard Osman.

    Other favorites
    Kopp sister series, Amy Stewart
    any series by Ann Cleeves
    Hugh de Singleton series, Mel Starr
    Crowther and Westerman series, Imogen Robertson
    Stuart Turton novels
    Roxane Weary series, Kristen Lepionka

    If one wants something really gentle, I just listened to “The tale of hill top farm” by Susan Wittig Albert. Super gentle but readable. Maybe good for sensitive YA or kids and parents (I assume – I don’t have kids). She has other series as well.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I had a dream last night that Richard Osman and I were in a crime-fighting syndicate together. (I couldn’t get into his books, but I have greatly enjoyed watching him on British tv via YouTube. Oddly in my dream he smoked, but IRL, according to a google search this morning, he’s very anti-smoking.)

      • HC Says:

        Perhaps this is a case wehre the reader matters a lot. Lesley Manville is the reader, and is terrific! The second book is also better than the first. I have checked out the second book over and over again from our library so that Lesley Manville reads to me while I fall asleep.

    • cfroning Says:

      HC–yes, the audio editions of Osman’s books are amazing. I love the narrator but didn’t find out it was Lesley Manville until after I watched Harlots and discovered how great she is.

      The other book I’m currently listening to where the narrator absolutely kills is The Blacktongued Thief. The author narrates it and it is amazing.

  5. heybethpdx Says:

    Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series has 17 books so far, is set in Quebec in current times, and has a rich and satisfying series story arc that really enhances each individual mystery. They’re not super gritty but might not be cozy either. I didn’t get into them for years and then read all 17 in three months.

    • Turia Says:

      I was coming on to say exactly this. I am not a big fan of mysteries but I LOVED LOVED LOVED these. She’s such a great writer. The series takes a couple of books to find its feet but by the fourth book or so I’ll bet everyone will be hooked. Everyone I have told to read her books (including big mystery fans) has become addicted.

      I don’t like super dark traumatic books and I’m fine with these.

      She also co-wrote a thriller with Hilary Clinton which is fun once you’ve run out of Gamache books.

      Have also heard the audio is excellent (I haven’t listened to any so can’t comment myself on this).

  6. ZM Says:

    For something a bit different- the Athena Club trilogy by Theodora Goss “ Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders — and the bigger mystery of their own origins.”

  7. Debbie M Says:

    I have some mysteries to recommend. I think I prefer cosy over dark, and I definitely enjoy likeable characters who don’t all get killed off. Most of the following books are also set in exotic locations (okay, they are outside the US anyway) because I’ve been looking for books set in other countries.

    * Alexander McCall Smith’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – You’ve probably heard of these. A lady uses her inheritance to open a detective agency in rural Botswana. She has amazing social skills! This is the first in a series, and the following books are pretty charming as well.

    * Peter Hoeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow – Learn about Greenland and mainland Denmark as Smilla investigates the death of a neighbor boy. I haven’t read this book in a while, but I remember it as being fascinating and Smilla is a tough and courageous lady.

    * Qiu Xialong’s Inspector Chen series (also in ZM’s list above) – In Communist China, everyone was guaranteed a job. And that is how our protagonist, a poet, became a police inspector. He’s actually good at that, too, though. The first book in the series is “Death of a Red Heroine” where he investigates a murder. Throughout the series he fights to find the right balance between ethics and career advancement (= better living conditions). If you’re a fan of poetry, you might like these books even more than I do.

    * Kwei Quartey’s Inspector Dawson series – Each book is set in a different part of Ghana, which is part modern and part ancient. In the first book, Wife of the Gods, he investigates a murder in a small town with fetish priests and unsettling traditions. I should warn you that many of the crimes in this series are just horrific, especially in the second book, Children of the Streets.

    * Vaseem Khan’s The Unexpected Inheritance Of Inspector Chopra – In Mumbai, India, a retired inspector can’t help investigating on the side, while also dealing with his new inheritance, which, I don’t want a spoiler, but it’s a live being that eats a lot. This is the first in a series. I haven’t found the second, but I have found the third and I don’t like it quite as well.

    * Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher Mysteries – Set in 1920s Australia with a quite modern protagonist, these are pretty fun. I think I like the characters in the TV series a little better, but it’s also fun to get a different version of the stories from the books.

    * In the US: I’ve also enjoyed Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series (especially the first one, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, where an empty-nester widow basically knocks on the door of the CIA and asks for them to please let her be a spy). Obviously not realistic, but fun. But my favorite book of hers is The Nun in the Closet, which does end up having a mystery in it, but is mostly about two nuns investigating the property that their group has just inherited and meeting the neighbors there. Note: the author thinks fortune telling might be true sometimes.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      All excellent recommendations!

    • Linda Says:

      I haven’t read the books, but I greatly enjoyed the movie versions of Smilla’s Sense of Snow and The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Interesting. I heard the Mrs. Pollifax movie was disappointing, so I didn’t watch it. And I didn’t know Smilla’s was a movie!

      • Linda Says:

        The Mrs. Pollifax movie was very campy and goofy. It’s a nice light movie for when you want something like that. The movie version of Smilla’s Sense of Snow is one of my favorite movies. Smilla is so intelligent, independent, and prickly.

  8. rose Says:

    Steven Havill gentle quiet police in rural SouthWest.. Posadas County series start with first BIll Gastner book Heartshot.

    Martin Walker set in south of France, start with Bruno; chief of police….. good food, caring community, community focus

    You have some good ones above already. THANK YOU

  9. ZM Says:

    And here are more suggestions:

    The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspeare (WW1 to WW2 England)

    City of Light by Dave Warner (Perth, Australia in the late 1970’s/1980s. More gritty than most I read, but it’s my hometown and is very place/time specific. Lots of corruption)

    The Perveen Mistry series by Sujata Massey (1920s Bombay, India. Norm challenging female lawyer)

    The Sam Wyndham series by Abir Mukherjee (also 1920s India, but Calcutta and the detective is struggling with a drug addiction so very different to the previous book!)

    The Inspector Pekkala series by Sam Eastland (Stalin-era Soviet Union)

    The Erast Fandorin series by Boris Akunin (pre- Revolution Russia)

    Already listed by others: I’m also a fan of Louise Penny & Gamache

  10. Linda Says:

    Jennifer Ashley also writes as Ashley Gardner. I’ve been a fan of her Captain Lacey Regency Mystery series for years, and she recently started publishing a new series about Leonidas the Gladiator set in Nero’s Rome. Good story telling and likable characters.

  11. Linda Says:

    I forgot to mention the Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas! Six books with a seventh on the way!

    • ZM Says:

      And I forgot to mention Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series (first book is the Beekeeper’s Apprentice)

      Also if you have a younger mystery series lover in your family (12+) my daughter strongly recommends

      The Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer

      The Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens

  12. EB Says:

    Tony Hillerman’s Lieutenant Leaphorn and Sergeant Chee stories, set on the Navajo reservation and nearby locales. Joined in later ones by Officer Bernadette Manuelito. Continued by his daughter Anne Hillerman after his death, but his are quite a lot better.

    • EB Says:

      Also, the Jackson Brodie mysteries by Kate Atkinson. Set in England and Scotland. Can recommend her other novels too,.

  13. CG Says:

    Thanks for publishing my question, and thanks for all the great recommendations! I was on vacation and taking an internet break so I didn’t get to weigh in while this thread was first active, but I see some on here that I already know I like, so that makes me think I’ll like others the posters recommend. Yay for reading! Yay for mysteries!

  14. Basia Korzeniowska Says:

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned Rex stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries. Quite dated now but gripping and charming in their own way. Very sexist – of their time

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