American Police novels

At a book club recently, one of the members asked what were my favorite police novels?  The obvious answer, Michael Connelly, sprang up, but the writers who drew me in to this particular sub genre were women.  One of the true pioneers in this sub genre, Lillian O’Donnell, is one of my favorite writers.  My late father in law introduced me to her in the 80’s and I’ve gobbled up everything I could find by this talented and to me, ground breaking  writer.

Lillian O’Donnell started her career as an actress, but when her husband asked that she not be on the road so often, she decided to try writing.  She wrote and sold her first mystery in 1959, but it wasn’t until 1972 that she created the character of policewoman Norah Mulcahaney.  The Norah Mulcahaney books stretch from 1972-1998, finding Norah starting her career, climbing the ranks, marrying, becoming a widow, and along the way battling the sexism inherent in a very male environment. read more

Jorge Zepeda Patterson: The Black Jersey

Review by Mike Simowski

In the colorful setting of the Tour de France (the world’s greatest bicycle race), murder and mayhem ensue in this unique and compelling thriller. Marc Moreau is a professional cyclist and one of the best in the world. But on his top-notch team, he is relegated to supporting his best friend who has won the Tour several times and is gunning for another against stiff competition. In this highly competitive atmosphere, accidents, crashes and other incidents occur at a rate that is both suspicious and alarming. Marc, a former military policeman, agrees to assist the French police in an undercover manner on the investigation, while still competing in the high-pressure 2,000-mile race. read more

Ann Cleeves: The Long Call

Ann Cleeves wrapped up her stellar Shetland series and has turned her hand and eye to Devon, a British resort area where of course she finds out what’s lurking under the surface. She introduces the reader to detective Matthew Venn, who has a complex backstory that would seem to lend itself to further discovery in more books down the road.

Matthew is a bit OCD, reminding me slightly of Margaret Maron’s great creation, Sigrid Harald. He was raised by parents who were members of a Christian cult and when he renounced their faith he was banned from their lives. He’s married to the lively, artistic and sometimes messy Jonathan, who runs the local center for art and disabled adults. The odd combination of artistic pursuit and mental health and disabled adult care seems to work well and the center is a lively place, important to many families in town. read more

Louise Penny: A Better Man

This is one of the more stripped down narratives Louise Penny has delivered.  Stripped down for Penny, that is.  The essential story is a simple one that drives her narrative, but being a complex writer and thinker, she’s made the simple complex.  There are two threads.  One concerns the disappearance of a woman who happens to be the goddaughter of a Surete officer.  Gamache, who has returned to work with a demotion (he’s head of homicide, not the entire Surete) accompanies the officer to the village where the woman lived. read more

Terry Shames: A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary

This is the first Samuel Craddock mystery I’ve read, largely on the advice of other readers I met at Left Coast Crime this year.  As when I had a bookstore, the best recommendations often come from fellow readers, and I decided to give this one a try.  I was intrigued when I sat next to Terry at a panel and she told me this was a police series, by far one of my favorite sub genres.  This is a softer police story than say, one by Michael Connelly, but it’s still a police novel and a very good one. read more

Terry Shames: A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary

Terry Shames A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary is our book club selection for May.  We’ll meet Thursday, May 30, 6 p.m. at the Classic Cup Cafe.

This book is the eighth in a series featuring small town police chief Samuel Craddock, where he follows up on the case of an online dating meet up gone very wrong.   All are welcome to join the discussion!  This book can be purchased at a discount on our online store page.

Elly Griffiths: The Stone Circle

As Elly Griffiths pens her eleventh Ruth Galloway novel, she comes – appropriately, given the title – almost full circle, back to her first novel.  Cast your mind back to Ruth’s teacher Eric and the henge discovered on the saltmarsh and move forward ten years, and Ruth is now dealing with Eric’s son, Leif, who is in town to look at a newly discovered henge.  Just like 10 years ago, two bodies are discovered on the site, one ancient, and one not so ancient.

Somehow Griffiths’ storytelling style is not only plot oriented, it’s character oriented, so she’s taking into account the many happenings in her character’s lives over the past 10 years.  Ruth is the mother of a 10 year old, thanks to a one night stand with the father, Detective Nelson.  Nelson’s wife is expecting a late in life baby at any moment, which may or may not be Nelson’s – she’d been having an affair.  Their older daughters are unaware that Kate, Ruth and Nelson’s daughter, is their sister. read more

Sophie Hannah: The Next to Die

Sophie Hannah’s books are police procedurals, and technically a series, but she seems always more interested in plot than in the coppers making the deductions.  That’s not a bad thing, but there’s no Inspector Dalgleish or Rebus or Banks to love.  Instead, the reader gets the messier – and no doubt far more realistic – interchange of police at all different levels and abilities.  In the case in this novel, the group have a very puzzling crime to solve.

Hannah diffuses her narrative with different narrators, newspaper columns, emails, and a host of other devices that keep the reader guessing along with the detectives.  There’s the straight up procedural story where the police are trying to solve a string of four murders that look to be paired murders of best friends, though carried out at different times and in different locations, and then there’s the story of the various characters in the novel. read more

Peter Robinson: Careless Love

This title is available Feb. 12.  You can pre-order and we’ll ship when it arrives.

Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks books are classics of the rare sort – British police procedurals that aren’t too dark, with a sympathetic main character at the center of things. Banks is a decent guy, obsessed with music and wine (reading the books is a crash course in jazz) and respectful of his co-workers. That said, I was thinking recently about what makes a book great, rather than just good. And I think it’s theme. read more

Start at the very beginning

An overview of First in Series books: find them for sale in our online store.

We’re offering these first in series titles for a couple reasons – one, some are hard to find and mystery readers like to read a series in order!  And secondly, while many of you may be familiar with these series, you may have only read the later books.  These are all incredible starts to great characters and stories.  Reading through all of them will give you a great overview of contemporary mystery fiction, in all its many threads – private eye, police, cozy, British procedural, historical.  Setting has proven to be key for the modern mystery as has a broader array of character types, ranging from Tony Hillerman’s iconic Joe Leaphorn to James Lee Burke’s P.I. Dave Robichaux to Laura Lippman’s kick-ass Tess Monaghan to Dorthy Gilman’s sweet old lady CIA agent Mrs. Pollifax.  If you had walked in to our store, we would have recommended these titles to you depending on your interest.  One of our all time bestsellers was Deborah Crombie’s spectacular debut, A Share in Death.  We hope you’ll dig in!  Here’s a list, and you can find them for sale on the online store page. read more