Reading three books a week means I have a towering ToBeRead Pile. Every writer will tell you they have authors whose books they reach for time and again, and if that person writes a series, those next installments are always pre-ordered. I count Nicola Upson, Mandy Morton, James Oswald, Elly Griffiths, Ann Cleeves, along with Anthony Horowitz, Val McDermid, Kate Rhodes, Deborah Crombie, and Aline Templeton among mine–and that list goes on and on.
I read these for the stories and to learn from great writers, and so I thought I’d introduce you to three crime-writing authors whose books you might not be familiar with, and whose work I highly recommend and reach for again and again. While vastly different, what they have in common is a darn good story in a strong setting wrapped in interesting characters you’ll want to follow.
Doug Johnstone’s books are all grand, but his Skelf series set in Scotland is one of my all-time favorites. I was part of a Twitter campaign after reading the first, A Dark Matter (#MoreSkelfs), as I became quickly hooked on the three original woman who center each story. Humor, intelligence, and emotions are all here in a deeply moving context that becomes pragmatic when your business is running a funeral home. I always learn a lot from Doug’s books, too.
Don’t let the darkness dissuade you. These are life-affirming, compelling, compassionate characters you will want to follow as I do. The fourth and newest is Black Hearts.
I’m sending you next to New Zealand and the Sam Shephard series by Vanda Symon.
Expectant is the fourth in this series with the detective sergeant expecting her first baby, as the title hints. So it’s no surprise that pregnancy and murder are wrapped in the story that is too close to home for Sam.
Symon brings Dunedin to life, and Sam continues to grow and stretch. A feisty heroine, Symon keeps the pacing in the entire series strong, and these get stronger with each installment, bringing strong characters to the page and wonderful dialogue, too.
Jane Casey’s long-running Maeve Kerrigan series grabbed me from the first due to her use of character, with DS Maeve Kerrigan soldiering under the enigmatic DI Josh Derwent.
The Close is the tenth outing when the two go undercover in an English suburban cul-de-sac posing as an engaged couple, to unearth a human trafficking ring. The tension never lets up and the twists keep coming in this tightly wound story. Each home houses more than their family, and as the two detectives insinuate themselves into the neighborhood with fascinating results, the secrets of their neighbors start to emerge in all-too-believable fashion. Each of these books will give readers a gift, while giving writers a Master class in crime writing. Whose books do you recommend over and over?