As I’ve gotten to know the staff of our September Bookstore of the Month a little better, I realized that Seattle Mystery Bookshop’s greatest strength is in its recommendations. The staff is impossibly well-versed in the genre. So I thought I’d ask them for some recommendations for our readers, particularly those of you out there who would never normally consider giving a mystery a try. Thanks so much to Seattle Mystery Bookshop owner JB Dickey and his staff (Fran, Adele, and Amber) for agreeing to do this. If any of these titles interests you, please stop by Seattle Mystery Bookshop to check them out, and tell them the Seattle Review of Books sent you. If you’re not in Seattle, feel free to order directly from their website; all the books are linked for your convenience.
In your opinion, what's the best single mystery for someone who thinks they hate mysteries?
JB: Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye – as much a novel about friendship as a mystery, and there are set-pieces of Chandler’s literature that are not to be missed.
Fran: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. It’s a coming-of-age story, it’s a building thunderstorm, it’s brilliant. And it doesn’t read like a mystery, but there’s a mystery at the heart of it.
Amber: There are so many! For those with an urban fantasy bent, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is a great place to start. The story centers on a woman who has her personality/memories stolen; she needs to find out who did this to her as well as who is a traitor to the crown. This book has a strong heroine who never falls into the trap of relying on a romantic relationship to save the day! If you are looking for a classic I would highly suggest Endless Night by Agatha Christie. It moves along really well, is one of the author’s favorites, and is an absolute classic! Not quite as well-known as And Then There Were None, Murder Of Roger Ackroyd or Murder On The Orient Express – it’s a good one to start with because you run into less spoilers in pop culture as to whodunit!
What the best mystery series for someone who think they hates mystery series?
JB: Craig Johnson’s Longmire series – literate, funny, moving books about the people and landscape with echoes of everything American. Easy to read them and love them and to not think of them as "mysteries." You have to read them in order because there are hints of things to come and references to past books in each.
Fran: Thomas Perry’s Jane Whitefield series is great. Jane is a Seneca woman who helps people with legitimate reasons to disappear. Her rules are stringent and she will die before revealing her secrets. I was initially skeptical about a man writing from a woman’s perspective, but I have to say that Mr. Perry has created a truly unique, intriguing and captivating series. Start with Vanishing Act. But too, I have to agree with JB about the Longmire series!
Adele: Louise Penny’s Gamache series. At the start of the series, Gamache is Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec who is always investigating happenings in Three Pines, a lovely village in southern Quebec where we all want to live despite the fact that people are always dying there. Louise has developed characters that you care about and cannot wait until the next book to see what happens. The series didn’t really catch me until the second book but they must be read in order (the first may not be skipped) due to the development of the main characters. When I first came to work at the bookshop, I ended up reading a lot of authors so that I could answer the question of “now that I am caught up with the Louise Penny series, what am I going to read until the next book?” Still Life is the first in the series. And let me echo JB and Fran about Craig Johnson!
Amber :This one is tricky…most of the reluctant readers I run into are kids. So the series I always suggest to them are for middle graders and up – Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer, which features Jennifer Strange, the acting manager for Kazaam (an employment agency for wizards) who finds herself embroiled in a plot to kill the last dragon in England. This whole series has a great sense of humor and never takes itself too seriously — there are a bunch of single kids’ titles which are great, but Jasper Fforde’s series is one of my all time favorites!
What’s the best mystery you've read lately?
JB: Don Winslow’s The Cartel, A David Lean saga of the horrific drug war along the US/Mexican border – timely and timeless lyrically told.
Fran: I just finished the science-fiction thriller Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein. Holy cow! Solid science (which could be overwhelming or boring but isn’t,) people to care about, clever humor, and non-stop action. Quite possibly the best of 2015, in my opinion.
Adele: Paul Cleave’s Trust No One. A mystery writer is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and his career is ending. His twelve books contain stories of brutal murders committed by very awful men. As his mental balance breaks down, he starts confessing to horrible crimes. Did he commit them or has his writing world collapsed into his reality? I have never wanted to skip to the end of a book so badly. I didn’t and held out to the shocking end. This and The Cartel are the two of the best but JB got to the Winslow first!
Amber: Ben Aaronovitch’s Midnight Riot. Set in modern London, it is about Constable Peter Grant who discovers a witness to a brutal murder. The only thing is this witness is a ghost and when he lets this slip to Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale, his entire career takes a left-hand turn. Each book has its own crime, plus an overarching storyline which builds in tension with each book. It is one of the few police procedurals based on magic, which I find absolutely fantastic.