Thursday, December 6, 2012

Maiden Voyage

LUCY BURDETTE: I told you it had been a lucky cycle for getting blog ideas from JRW readers. Here's the second one this week. Denise Terry, one of the students who attended the SEASCAPE: ESCAPE TO WRITE seminar this year, mentioned that a number of years ago, her sister had given her a complete set of Agatha Christie books so she could "lighten up" her reading. And then she got hooked. 

Denise also told me she has a friend who has never read a mystery. She wondered what we would recommend to a mystery virgin? I asked her to find out more about why her friend had never picked up a mystery, so we could target our suggestions.

Denise's friend said: "I don’t like scary stuff that gets into my dream life.  The scariest book I ever read was Philip Margolin “Gone but not Forgotten,” which had me breathless as I read it.  Really heart pounding and scared.  I finished it b/c I always do, but I didn’t like being so scared. I did not get near the girl with the dragon tattoo books, again prejudiced that I’d  be too scared."

So there is the challenge for today Reds. What first mystery would you offer to someone who doesn't want to be too scared? How about a reader whose TBR list has been loaded with literary classics but who might enjoy a lighter read?

RHYS BOWEN: It goes without saying that I'd recommend any book written by a Jungle Red author. If I wanted to convince someone that mysteries were not just "genre fiction"--i.e. light fluff, poorly written, as some people seem to think, I'd suggest Louise Penny, Laurie King, Margaret Maron. I think that Red Deb's books are as good as it gets for British police procedurals with great characters. If someone really wanted a good chuckle I'd recommend my own Spyness titles.

HALLIE EPHRON: Yes, goes without saying (but here I go, saying it again) all of our books are wonderfully entertaining. She could look at the lists of Agatha  and Mary Higgins Clark award nominees (Never Tell a Lie and Come and Find Me were nominated for the latter) as a good start.

Classics? Definitely Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White. P.D. James's An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers. The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake. Overture to Death (or anything else by Ngaio Marsh). Fer-de-lance by Rex Stout. And the list goes on...

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, what a good question! And yes, Rhys--we have the whole spectrum here, right? (And with that "other woman" in the headlines, it seems like a perfect segue to my..oh, well, you know.) But for "lighter" reads, "entry" reads, how about Peter Abrahams' Chet and Bernie books, where the story
is from a dog's point of view? (written as Spencer Quinn.) They're wonderful. Julie Hyzy's "White House Chef" series is truly and intelligently funny. Catriona MacPherson's Dandy Gilver is sort of Downton Abbey meets Agatha Christie--I LOVE her books! And how about Murder on the Orient Express?

LUCY: Yes, Hank I love Julie Hyzy's White House chef series. And of course it depends on what the reader is interested in too, right? If a foodie, there are tons of fun culinary mysteries out, starting with Diane Mott Davidson and then lots of new ones. And for characters and setting, you can't go wrong with Nancy Pickard, THE SCENT OF RAIN AND LIGHTENING.

Now your turn reds. What books would you recommend to a mystery virgin?


  1. Nothing new to add - ditto all those suggestions. But I love that colorful table of Berkley books!

  2. Aside from any of the Jungle Red Writers’ books [which pretty much goes without saying . . . I’ve loved and recommended them all] . . . my suggestion for mystery reading parallels a discussion we had some time back about “the one mystery everyone should read.” Then I recommended Isaac Asimov’s “Caves of Steel,” a mystery set in a future time bringing elements from the science fiction genre into the world of the mystery. I still find it to be a perfect combination of genres and I’d recommend J. D. Robb’s amazing “In Death” series, set in the not-too-distant future but also bringing some of those elements of the science fiction genre into the world of the mystery . . . . The result is a wonderfully unique, totally enjoyable series.

  3. For anyone in the Boston area with a hankering for their first or thousand-and-first a crime novel, come on down (up?) to the Mobile Book Fair Mystery Gala tonight (6-9) at the store in Newton ... Something like 40 local authors will be there (including me and Hank and Edith).

  4. Obviously any of the Reds' books! Also throw in "Another Man's Treasure" by S.W. Hubbard that was introduced here recently. It's a great story and hilariously funny as well as an intriguing mystery.

    And there's always Encyclopedia Brown... He was my gateway drug into the mystery world! :0)

  5. Any of the books by the Reds would satisfy in this case I think.

    I will also second Louise Penny, Diane Mott Davidson, J.D. Robb depending on the interests of the reader.

    Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles series and Earlene Fowler's quilt series are other options if the topics are of interest to the reader.

  6. I'd echo the suggestions already made and add Krista Davis's Diva books and Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse series.

  7. Wonderful suggestions all!

    I'm just sick that I can't get to the Newton party. Have fun you guys and send some pix! xoxo

  8. oh, this is fun! I love love love recommending books. But you guys have already pretty much covered most of the authors I would recommend! ALL the Reds, Margaret Maron, Louise Penny, Susan Wittig Albert . . . .

    I will add add Linda Fairstein's series. Not only am I in love with Mike Chapman, I really love the glimpses into NYC history she gives us. And she feeds my fixation on old architecture.

    Also, Ellery Adams' Books by the Bay series.

    And finally Sharon Wildwind's series about a Viet Nam nurse after returning home. Not a light read, but oh so powerful and one of the best written series out there today, IN my humble opinion.

  9. I've been pushing Linwood Barclay's TRUST YOUR EYES--did I already say that?

    And yes, it oughtta be a pretty hilarious night at NEMBF--the burning question--will there be more authors or more customers?


  10. Hey, Denise - what is your friend into? Hobbies? Interests? Fave vacation spot? That will help us narrow down her possible selections.

  11. Diane Mott Davidson's first Goldie mystery was a gateway drug for me, into the world of cozies. Nancy Martin's Blackbird Sisters mysteries are great, and so are any of Elizabeth Peters, Carolyn Hart, Sue Grafton, and for the funny, Lisa Lutz.

    Naturally, all the Reds, as well as Catriona McPherson. And I happen to love Colin Cotterill's books, too, for something really different. Julia Spencer Fleming's Claire Fergusson books are superb, as well.

    So many great books; so little time!

  12. What fun to be the center of attention!

    My friend (her name is Elisabeth, and I hope she will chime in here) is a true eclectic -- she travels, reads a lot of non-fiction, knits & needlepoints. She writes, works in social outreach, and has a masters in American decorative arts.

    She recently read "Gone Girl" & enjoyed it.

    I was in Watertown, MA for ten days -- and left yesterday!! Would have loved to attend the Newton event.

  13. Ah, she travels! If she loves France, Cara Black's series. For England, Reds' Deb and Rhys's series. American decorative arts -- well, there are many love American historicals, plus Sheila Connolly's museum series.

    You all are making me wish I could spend the day reading instead of writing!

  14. I'm old school, so I'd start with somes classics:

    Three by (Josephine)Tey: Brat Farrar, The Franchise Affair, and Miss Pym Disposes.

    The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

    And, of course, Rebecca.

  15. Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity series, but she must start with the first or she'll be totally lost.

  16. I see it is Ro's Birthday! A verrrry happpy one to you!!! As to what book I'd rec to a person who is a non-mystery reader... I think one of William Tapply's books , or the delightful book by Bronson Parker, The Providence of Death. Or, of course, Hanks' blockbuster The Other Woman! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  17. Ditto what everyone else has mentioned. Harley Jane Kozak's books might be good for beginner.

    Debut author Gigi Pandian has started a series that mixes mystery with archeology/adventure.

  18. I'd recommend Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody and/or Vicky Bliss books and anything by Dick Francis. And, of course, Rhys Bowen!

  19. OH, thank you, dear Thelma! xoo

    And if you want to be addded to the Jungle Red holiday card list, all of you, email me at h ryan at whdh dot com !

    And Denise, if she liked the deception of Gone Girl, I bet she'd like, book's main characters are nicer. :-)


  20. Then there's always the Mrs. Pollifax series, and Maggie Sefton's knitting series. And of course all words by the Reds!

    I love the looks of surprise on people's faces when they walk into our store and proclaim -- frequently loudly -- that they don't read mysteries. When we quiz them about what they DO read, frequently we hear, "Oh, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, James Patterson." And we just smile.

  21. Happy birthday, dear Ro, happy birthday to you!!!

    Apologies all for missing out on the blog comments--I plead puppy fatigue.

    So many good suggestions already. Ramona, Brat Farrar is one of my all-time favorite books.

    I'd add Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe books, and such fun to start at the beginning of series. And Elly Griffiths. And Charles Todd, especially the Bess Crawford books.

    I know we all could go on for days and never get to the end of our lists. Too many books, not enough time. My lifetime mantra.

  22. Let me add two Bills to the list: Crider and Pronzini.

    And some of the classics: Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr, Anthony Boucher, Margery Allingham, and Nicholas Blake. (Blake, of course, was C. Day Lewis, father of Daniel Day Lewis and one time Poet Laureate of England.)

  23. Oh, oh, so many books--thanks for all your thoughtful suggestions!

    Fran, tell us about your store? I love your description...

  24. Wishing I were near Newton!

    Only rarely will I read a nightmare-inducing book. Never after dark. Couldn't get through the first chapter of Girl With The Dragon Tatoo. I wanted to.

    Of course we recommend JRW. That's why we're here. I have to say, though, you kids could use an app.

    Written with the help of my service dog Kendall
    And iMac Dictation

  25. Lucy, I work at Seattle Mystery Bookshop. Several of you lovely ladies have visited on occasion, and we'd LOVE to host a Jungle Red panel if we can have three or more of you there! Been around for 22 1/2 years now, and hanging in despite the weirdness in the publishing world. I must say, I love my job, and my homework really rocks!

  26. Ditto the many good suggestions. Karen from Ohio particularly captured quite a few of my favorites. I have two additions to the list: For a light, fun cozy with a ton of humor, it's hard to top Ann George's Southern Sisters mysteries. And for quality writing that makes the fact that it's a mystery seem secondary, I love Laura Lippman. She has the Tess Monaghan series, but several free standing titles as well.

  27. I love all the suggestions already made. I would add Steven Havill, Tony Hillerman, and Christopher Fowler. I am sure I am leaving out some authors. There are some long-dead authors whose names I cannot remember but whose books I would love to reread. (I've donated so many to a library sale so that I could make room for more books,and then I always miss the books I've donated.)

    It still frustrates me that so many people can't accept mysteries as anything other than "fluff". We all know that mysteries can educate as well as entertain!

  28. If well -written, funny mysteries are what is wanted then I recommend Joan Hess's Maggoty Series (some of the funniest, weirdest characters I've ever come across) and her Claire Malloy series; Mary Dahiem's Bed and Breakfast Series and her Alpine Series; Rita Mae Brown's Mrs. Murphy's Series; Charlotte MacLeod; Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe series; and last, but not least, M. C. Beaton's Hamish MacBeth series. Plus, all of the JR writers, all of whom I read and enjoy immensely. Thank you all for making the world a better place for readers!

  29. Some more names; not sure if they have already been mentioned: Philip Craig, who wrote some wonderful mysteries set in Martha's Vineyard (and anyone who likes William Tapply would probably enjoy the books that Craig co-wrote with Tapply...I miss both of these authors... RIP). Sara Paretsky's mysteries are always riveting. After checking on Google, I was able to help my brain retrieve the name Arthur Upfield, long deceased,who wrote the Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte mysteries set in Australia.

    I KNOW I'm leaving out authors that I would recommend if I could only remember their names!(And I am getting a pretty good idea of why I never have time to clean the house:-)

  30. Thanks, gentle generous reader/writers.
    I am moved by the richness of your suggestions as I tip toe rather than take the leap.
    By your lights, it seems I have read a few "mysteries," incl Rebecca, Carl Hiassen's Tourist Season, and I think a Laura Lippman.
    Gone Girl tempted me to buy Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects for later this month. Just now, I'm loving Julian Barnes' lyrically-written Sense of An Ending and wonder whether it's a "mystery," without-the-label. The bookseller told me to try William Landay's Defending Jacob, which calls itself a "thriller." Time will tell whether this is a mystery or more a thriller.

    Thanks to Denise (and the Red friends) for all the inspired encouragement to tip toe forward into more mysteries..

  31. yay Elisabeth and Denise for stirring the bookish pot today at jrw!

    Deb, have never heard of Arthur Upfield, will have to check that out.

    D Billingsley--no, no we thank YOU!

    Fran, I was in Seattle Mystery bookshop many years ago, it may have been when my first mystery was out, SIX STROKES UNDER by Roberta Isleib. The old days...:) Jungle Red panel would be great fun!

  32. Some oldies: anything by Charlotte Armstrong or Mary Stewart (except the Merlin books). Superb classic, classy suspense novels.