Friday, May 26, 2017

Mysteries for Readers who Don't Like Mysteries


INGRID THOFT


Can you believe it?  There are actually readers out there who don't like mysteries?!


A friend, who falls into this category, recently asked me for some mystery/thriller/suspense suggestions, a mystery gateway drug, if you will.  I had a few ideas, but I thought, who better to make recommendations to a reluctant mystery reader, than the Reds and all of you?  Here are my choices.  What would yours be?


Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is one of the greats of suspense fiction, and its ongoing popularity would suggest it appeals to a broad readership.  The creepy characters and setting and the beautiful prose are sure to delight those who usually steer clear of the suspense shelves.

I always suggest newbies start with A is for Alibi, but every Sue Grafton book is a treat.  Why would I recommend a novel featuring a private investigator to non-mystery lovers?  Because Kinsey Millhone is a knock-out character.  Readers become engrossed in the story, but Kinsey is the real draw.  Once you spend time with her, I'm convinced you'll make quick work of the whole alphabet.

The third book in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, Faithful Place is mesmerizing and transports readers to a small neighborhood in Dublin where everyone knows everyone else's business, and yet, dark secrets remain.  The sense of place is so powerful and the drawing of the familial relationships is so sharp, I dare any reader to put this one down.



So tell me Reds and readers, which books do you recommend to readers who (gasp!) don't like mysteries?

74 comments:

  1. For those who don’t like mysteries, I’d recommend Julia’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” or Hank’s “The Wrong Girl” or any of the stories in Lucy’s Key West series because they are strong character stories that are impossible to put down.
    I’d also recommend any of the Eve Dallas books or any of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher tales . . . .

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    1. Thanks, Joan! I totally agree with the recommendation of Julia, Hank, and Lucy! I have to admit that I'm not familiar with the Eve Dallas series, so I'll have to check it out.

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    2. Ingrid, Nora Roberts writes the Eve Dallas stories under the pseudonym of J. D. Robb. Eve is a detective in 2058 New York. So far, forty-four books have been published in the “In Death” series . . . .

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  2. I think it depends on what your friend likes to read before he or she turns to mysteries. If she loves romance, I heartily second Joan's recommendation of Nora Roberts/J. D. Robb's "In Death" series. Just start at the beginning with "Naked in Death," since it's the most romance-like of the series. Mary Stewart's romantic suspense is perhaps a gentler introduction to the mystery, and writers like Jayne Ann Krentz and Elizabeth Lowell do a nice job of blending romance with suspense, to get you hooked on a more active story.

    If he or she prefers action/military adventure, by all means Lee Child is the place to go. If he insists on literary merit, Louise Penny or our own Deb Crombie might suit. Or he could go all the way back to Sherlock Holmes, and Wilkie Collins' "The Moonstone." In fact, I think starting with Agatha Christie isn't a bad idea. They are classics of the genre, after all.

    By the way, I just finished mainlining all your Fina Ludlow novels, Ingrid, and I'll admit to dragging my feet as I neared the end of Duplicity. I didn't want to come to the end of Fina. When is the next one due?

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    1. Christie's Tommy and Tuppence books are a great place to start.

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    2. She's not a romance fan, but I could imagine her picking up a Louise Penny or one of Debs' books. I'll have to check if she's read any Lee Child. Is there anyone who hasn't read Lee Child?

      I'm so glad you've enjoyed the Fina Ludlow novels, Gigi! I love writing them so I'm always pleased to hear from a happy reader. I don't have the release date yet for the next one, and my stand alone will be coming out before Fina #5, but I'll let you know when I know!

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  3. I agree with Joan and Gigi's recommendations about Lee Child if you like action/thriller books. And you can start reading him almost anywhere in the series.

    For more traditional mysteries, either Louise Penny or Margaret Maron or Carolyn Hart.

    And for P.I., yes I like Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, but also Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky and Robert Crais.

    INGRID: I also have loved reading all 4 of the Fina books. Like Gigi, I did not want Duplicity to end and am anxiously waiting for the next one!

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    1. Thanks, Grace!

      That's a good point about not needing to start at the beginning of the Reacher series. That makes me wonder if, in general, she would be more inclined to pick up a stand alone. I'll have to ask her!

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  4. I'd want to know why they "don't like mysteries" and then what DO they like to read. Because there's such a range of "mysteries" out there.

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    1. Agreed. I'm sure there is a mystery out there that contains some elements of what they DO like to read.

      Although personally - don't read mysteries? Sigh.

      Mary/Liz

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    2. I think her reason is that reading a mystery can feel like work because she feels inclined to figure it out. She knows she doesn't have to, but that's her tendency, and I don't think she's alone in approaching mysteries that way. She's a voracious reader in general and reads a lot of contemporary and literary fiction.

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    3. I'd agree with her... I can see where mysteries where there's too much of a focus on the puzzle, the whodunnit and how, it can feel like a clinical exercise. I'd steer her to more literary mystery writers. John Hart. Denise Mina. Yes Daphne du Maurier. Kate Atkinson.

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    4. Yes, Hallie, I think she needs to be eased into the puzzles!

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  5. Thank you for the lovely comment Joan! and good questions all around. I think the best way in is through the characters...I thought of Peter Heller's CELINE, and Joshilyn Jackson's THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYTHING, both of which I ready recently. They are not billed as mysteries, with strong characters and story, but they are mysteries. In fact, isn't every book a mystery? That's what makes the plot. IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER--perfect gateway drug!

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    1. Exactly! If there's no mystery the book is flat and boring.

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    2. Wasn't CELINE a delight?

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    3. CELINE is moving up my TBR list! I agree with the idea that characters are key; they're really the entry point for every story.

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    4. " Celine is a deeply personal novel, a wildly engrossing story of family, privilege, and childhood loss. Combining the exquisite plotting and gorgeous evocation of nature that have become his hallmarks, Peter Heller gives us his finest work to date." Ok, I know his publisher wrote this, but I think it is spot on. Lucy Roberta and I loved it!

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    5. I'm convinced. I just ordered it!

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  6. I didn't like mysteries either. I don't like the blood and guts. I first gound culinary cozies through Diane Mott Davidson and was hooked. Now I read most culinary cozies and a few others. If the reader likes politics I suggest Julia Hyzy White House Chef series. If she/he likes travel Sheila Connaly Irish series. American history is aldo covered by Connolly. There are cozies for everyone's interest.

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    1. So how did you happen to read your first mystery, Sue? Recommendation from a friend? Taken by the cover?

      And it's a great suggestion to think of the setting or other area of interest as a "gateway."

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  7. If the person likes history, Rhys' In Farleigh Field,or any of Mary Miley's prohibition era works, beginning with The Impersonator, could reel them in. Craig Johnsn's Longmire books are well crafted mysteries that could also be considered contemporary westerns.
    IMHO, some of today's best writing is in the mystery genre, which is too often dismissed by book snobs.


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    1. Luckily my friend doesn't dismiss the genre (that would get awkward given the books I write!) I just think she hasn't found the right character or series for her. I love LONGMIRE and think that's an excellent suggestion.

      I wonder if the huge success of books like GONE GIRL, GIRL ON THE TRAIN, etc. have brought more readers into the mystery/suspense/thriller genre or sent them running in the other direction?

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  8. I think it depends if it is a man or a woman! Hate to say it but as gateway…
    I'd start a man on thrillers: Day of the Jackal. Nelson DeMille's Charm School. Any Lee Child.
    Women would love those too, of course – – they are among my favorite ever books.
    How about silence of the lambs? How about… Oh! Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent? call William Landay's Defending Jacob . What about Susan Isaacs classic Compromising Positions? Or! Murder on the Orient Express!

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    1. Nelson DeMille's Plum Island is my favorite.

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    2. SHELTER ISLAND by Dennis Lehane. If that doesn't hook someone, nothing will

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    3. All great suggestions, and Hank, my friend is a woman, FYI.

      I loved DEFENDING JACOB, but I wonder if SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is too gory? I haven't read it myself for that very concern!

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    4. Oh, Dennis Lehane! Mystic River, and Gone Baby Gone. And couldn't we talk for hours about Shutter Island-- I loved it! But Jonathan did not. .
      Silence... well, yes, I suppose it is grotesque. In places. But I have to say, and maybe it is just me, but when I think about that book, the violence is not what I think about. It's just… Astonishingly written. With incredible characters. Highly highly recommended.
      I have started books that are stomach churning you violent, and I simply stop reading them. But I could read Silence again and again.

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    5. Hank, I read Shutter Island while sitting on the porch of 100 year old cottage on Point Judith, over looking a pond off the bay and across at a fog shrouded island. Terrifying. And Silence of the Lambs, what can I say. Maybe we were separated at birth.

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    6. *Shutter Island, not Shelter Island, although that one was good too.

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    7. I think you two are braver than I am! Still don't think I could manage LAMBS!

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  9. And oh, thank you so much 'Joan! That is so lovely to hear… Xxxx

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  10. Wouldn't the answer to the question depend on what they don't like - or think they don't like about mysteries? And then recommend something that will change their assumptions? And yes, I too was blown away by Faithful Place.I guessed the guilty person, then had to unguess as the story unwound, then turned out to be right but with a completely surprising yet fully believable reason for the crime. So impressed!

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    1. I was speaking with another friend who was raised in an Irish Catholic family in the States, but he said that the family dynamics rang so true in FAITHFUL PLACE. It's my favorite in the series so far.

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  11. It's a mystery to me why some say they don't care for mysteries. And judging by the number of cop/police procedural/spy movies and TV shows, it's a total lie. :-)

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    1. Perhaps I should schedule her for a polygraph, Karen! ;)

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    2. Maybe! I mean, what isn't a mystery, when you're talking fiction?

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  12. Brooding, atmospheric, character-driven--I'd suggest Charles Todd for a discerning reader. History, sense of place--always a great read! Also Tony Hillerman--another great sense of place--this time with the added nuance of different cultures--and great characters.

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    1. Thanks, Flora. Have you read any of Anne Hillerman's books? I wondered how they stacked up next to her father's.

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    2. Ingrid, I've read them all. Anne has made them her own by focusing on the character of Bernie--married now to Jim Chee. But there was a depth, an ease to Tony H's long familiarity with the characters of Chee and Leaphorn, the Navajo culture--and I miss that. Chee and Leaphorn are still there--but they're not the same. In my opinion.

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    3. I'll have to give them a try. I always enjoyed Tony H's, and I'm really taken by the Southwestern setting.

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  13. I'm trying really hard to come up with a book without an element of mystery. Or sex. Or violence. Or spirituality. You can start with Homer and work your way up to the present. If I don't care about how it all ends, I probably put it down after a few pages.

    I love puzzles, and I think that is a main attraction to mysteries, for me at least. However, most of all I like excellence. The older I get, the more particular I am. And with the welter of stuff out there now, I need a system to separate the wheat from the chaff. At 76, I have no need for chaff.

    So when shopping for a new book/new author, I tend to look in the genre, even if I hate that it's a genre.

    Books that aren't marketed as mysteries? Try Fredrik Backman, A MAN CALLED OVE and everything else he ever wrote. Just finished BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE. This gentleman is true genius and he is only 35 years old. I have cookie sheets older than that.

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  14. The puzzles are a main attraction for me, too, Ann, but I think that may be what my friend doesn't like. My mom really liked A MAN CALLED OVE, but she thought I would find the main character too infuriating. Apparently, I'm not known for my patience!

    I'm going to assume that those cookie sheets are the best you've ever had or you wouldn't keep them around, right?

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    1. Ingrid, for me the Backman books are ones I never want to have end.

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    2. Interesting...maybe I'll have to give them a try!

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  15. I should have realized that mystery lovers would want to know more about why my friend doesn't like mysteries! I'll do some sleuthing today and see if I can get more information!

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  16. For years one of my sisters told me she didn't like mysteries. "I always guess who did it" was her reason. I told her that I read mysteries for numerous reasons, not just to solve something. There's setting, there's characters, background, etc. She likes history, so I suggested books by Rhys or by Susan Elia MacNeal, or Charles Todd. She was sure she wouldn't like them. She was at my house for a few days in November and looked through my books, disappointed that most are mysteries. I noticed that she started reading the first Maggie Hope book. At first she seemed determined to not like it. Then she couldn't put it down! She finished it and started on the next one. She wasn't done when she had to return home, and asked if she could take it with her. She has since told me that when she finished it she went out and bought the next one, and the next one, and is now addicted to them!

    I'm going to try to get her hooked on Rhys's books next!

    Deb Romano

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    1. Well done, Deb! It just takes the right book!

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  17. Everyone's suggestions are so good. I need to know what your friend likes to read before I can offer any alternatives. Ben Aaronovitch would be good for semi-silly mystery. Ann Charles' Deadwood series for funny/supernatural mystery. Harry Bosch books for realistic. I have a slew of names for historical mystery.

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    1. Forget my friend, I'm getting so many good suggestions today! Thanks, Pat!

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  18. Wonderful suggestions. I'll toss in a few of my favorites, Linda Fairstein's books, all (most) set in NYC are wonderful and you can start with any of the series and not be lost. If your friend is familiar with New York City, it's a great place to meet a mystery. Then there is Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli and Isles's books. These have a bit more sequence (but still stand alone) and if your friend ever caught one or more of the episodes on TV, well, she'll have a bit of a background to work from. Is lighthearted mystery more her dish? Diane Vallere delivers with aplomb in any of her series books. My special favorites are the Samantha Kidd and Madison Night books. Smart and funny. We'll hook this reader.

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    1. I know she likes NYC, Kait, so Linda Fairstein's books are a great idea.

      Is the TV show true to the Rizzoli and Isles books? I've just finished watching the "Shetland" series on Netflix and now I'm reading Ann Cleeves' latest Jimmy Perez mystery, COLD EARTH. It's a very different experience with the TV series in my head.

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    2. I'm reading Cold Earth right now too after having seen Shetland. Enjoyed Shetland like I enjoyed Longmire. I like the books better. The TV series always have to change things up. I like my Jimmy Perez tall, dark, and younger like the books!

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    3. I'm definitely having trouble getting Douglas Henshall out of my head as I read it. Not that there's anything wrong with him, but he's definitely a different Jimmy than the one in the books.

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    4. I think just the characters as the show isn't based on any one book but on the characters. If she likes their interaction on the screen, she may like them on the page.

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  19. Christie's Miss Marple. Robert Crais. Aaron Elkins' Gideon Oliver novels. Raymond Chandler short stories. The Domesday Books by Edward Marston, for historical fiction. William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor novels. Louise Penny. Laura Lippman.

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    1. William Kent Krueger is a terrific recommendation!

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  20. My go to title recommendation for non mystery readers is Carl Hiaasen's Stormy Weather. I think the humor will lure them into the crime novel and hopefully lead them to investigate the genre of crime novels more thoroughly. BTW, Rebecca is one of my all time favorite novels and I would recommend that one as well.

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    1. Jenn, I adore Carl Hiaasen! I agree that his humor would be a real hook.

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    2. I love Carl Hiaasen, and I have his latest, RAZOR GIRL, in view on a side table at this very moment. He does an amazing job with humor, and I love how he captures the uniqueness of Florida.

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  21. I agree with others that it might be helpful to know some of your friend's reading in other areas, like what books have been favorites. And, for those who have suggested the Reds' authors, I wholeheartedly agree that any of them would be great starting places. Also, I see the need to slide your friend into mystery with books like Rebecca and Tana French's books, and Jenn's suggestion of Carl Hiaasen is great.

    I just read a book, rather by accident, as I was looking for an audio book at the library to take on a car trip. I came across a book that came out last year, Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase, and while it wasn't really a murder mystery, it had plenty of mystery in it, an a Cornish country place called Black Rabbit Hall. I ended up checking the print version out of the library when I returned home to finish reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I think your friend, Ingrid, might find it a great transition read, too. And, that brings up another question about setting. I love stories set in England, especially Cornwall, and if your friend has a place of interest, that might help in knowing where to start.

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  22. BLACK RABBIT HALL looks like a must-read, Kathy: creepy, atmospheric, and some juicy family drama!

    Since you listened to part of it and read the rest, it made me think about those different experiences. Does it change the book for you depending upon whether you listen or read? Not related to today's topic, but I'm curious!

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    1. I must say that Black Rabbit Hall was a great book to listen to, and if I had been on a longer trip or going back on one, I would have continued it in audio. It was very well done. However, having listened to half of it on audio, I was able to retain those voice in my head as I read the rest of the book. I think, in this case, the audio enhanced my reading experience. But, I am such a visual person that I don't foresee changing to audio for my reading. Maybe, I should start each book I read with audio and switch. Hahaha! I have begun to have a lot more admiration for audio.

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    2. That's interesting that the audio carried through to your own reading. It might get complicated trying to do both for every book! You'd have twice the TBR pile!

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  23. For me, if I was recommending a mystery, I would say Ingrid's Duplicity. And I'm not sucking up here. I wrote in my Goodreads review that I consider it the best PI novel I've read in years and her masterpiece to date.

    For a straight up thriller, Terry Hayes' I Am Pilgrim or John Sandford's Rules of Prey.

    Also, I would recommend all the Spenser novels, but I really love A Catskill Eagle or Looking for Rachel Wallace a lot.

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    1. Oh, and the C.J. Box Joe Pickett series.

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    2. And far too many outstanding authors and books to do a list.

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    3. The Joe Pickett series is my go-to for everyone. They are great books and seem to appeal to a wide range of readers. I've never had any complaints from the recipients!

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