Monday, May 18, 2015

Favorite Mystery Series--Books

This is the growing list--both in the sense that authors are occasionally added to it and that many of the authors are still providing us with more adventures of their detectives. I have attempted to list them according to the following pattern:

Mystery category
Name of featured detective
Usual location for the series
Time of the novel
Prequel, if any
First novel in the series

Ingrid Black (husband and wife collab)
Former Law-enforcement Officer
Saxon, ex-FBI profiler
Dublin, Ireland 
First novel in the series:  The Dead  (2003)
May move this to a different list as there hasn't been a new novel since 2008

Giles Blunt
Police Procedural
Detective John Cardinal
Algonquin Bay, fictional town near Toronto, Canada
First novel in the  series: Forty Words for Sorrow  (2000)

Karin Fossum,
Police Procedural
Inspector Konrad Sejer
Elvestad, Norway
First novel in the series:  In the Darkness aka Eva's Eye (1995)

Michael Gregorio (wife and husband collab)
Judicial Detective
Magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis
Konigsberg, Prussia
Historical mystery set in Prussia during the Napoleonic wars in 1804.
First Book in Series   Critique of Criminal Reason  (2006)
They may have ended the series as there hasn't been a new one since 2010.

Eliot Pattison
Former Law-enforcement Officer
Shan Tao Yun,
Tibet: Former police officer in Beijing, China, whose duty was to investigate corruption in the party and ends up in a work camp in Tibet for being too diligent in his duties.
First novel in the series: The Skull Mantra (1999)

Peter Robinson
Police Procedural
Chief Inspector Alan Banks
Yorkshire, England
First novel in series: Gallows View  (1987)

C. J. Sansom
Judicial detective
Matthew Shardlake,  lawyer
London, England
Historical mystery, 16th century,  during the reign of King Henry VIII,
First novel in the series:  Dissolution   (2003)

Steven Saylor
Private Professional
Gordianus the Finder
Historical mystery,  1st century BC
Prequel:  The Seven Wonders.
Second Prequel:  Raiders of the Nile
First novel in the series:  Roman Blood  (1991)

Charles Todd (mother and son collab)
Police Procedural
Inspector Ian Rutledge
London, England and countryside
Historical mystery, just after WWI
Prequel:  A Fine Summer's Day, set in 1914. 
First novel in the series:  A Test of Wills, (1996)

Fred Vargas
Police Procedural
Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg
Paris, France
First novel in the series:  The Chalk Circle Man  (1991)

The following is the sad list--those favorite series that have ended, usually because of the author's death but sometimes because of the author's decision to end the series.

Agatha Christie
Talented amateur
Miss Jane Marple
St. Mary Mead,  England
Contemporary when written in 1930
First novel in the series:  The Murder at the Vicarage  (1930)

Colin Dexter
Police Procedural
Inspector Morse
Oxford, England
First novel in the series: Last Bus to Woodstock  (1975)
Colin Dexter ended the series

Batya Gur
Police procedural
Inspector Michael Ohayon,
Jerusalem, Israel
First novel in the series:  The Saturday Morning Murder: a psychoanalytic case  (1992)

P. D. James
Police Procedural
Commander Adam Dalgliesh
London, England
First novel in the series:  Cover Her Face  (1962)

Bernard Knight
Technical professionals
Sir John de Wolfe (coroner)
County of Devon, England
Historical mystery, 1196 AD
First novel in the series:  The Sanctuary Seeker  (19980
Bernard Knight ended the series and now has two other series

Ellis Peters
Talented Amateur
Brother Cadfael  (a Benedictine monk)
Shrewsbury Abbey, Shrewsbury,  Shropshire, England
Historical mystery set in mid 12th century
Prequel:  A Rare Benedictine
First novel in the series:  A Morbid Taste for Bones  (1977)

Dorothy Sayers
Talented Amateur
Lord Peter Wimsey
London, England
Contemporary when written
First novel in the series: Whose Body   (1923)

Arthur Upfield
Police procedural
Inspector Napoleon (Bony) Bonaparte
Australia, various fictional locations
Contemporary when written
First novel in the series:  The Barrakee Mystery (1928)


  1. Hi Fred. I knew none from the first list but I've read Agatha Christie and most of Peters' Cadfael series. Right now my husband and I are enjoying the ninetie's Poirot series.

    Have you read Dashiell Hammett or Simonen's Detective Mairgret series? I am reading some of these as well.

    1. Sharon,

      Yes, I've read several of Dashiell Hammett's and Simenon's mysteries, as well as Raymond Chandler's.

      For some reason, I think of Hammett and Chandler works more as individual works than series works. For example, in any list of favorite mystery novels, I would include Hammett's _The Maltese Falcon_ or Chandler's _The Big Sleep_.

      That is why I didn't include them in this posting.

      Have you seen the TV adaptations of Christie, Simonen, or Peter's Brother Cadfael?

    2. Josh and I are just now discovering Poirot but we need to see Miss Marple as well. I really enjoyed the Cadfael series. In fact I watched them first before getting the books.

    3. Sharon,

      Be sure to watch the Miss Marple films with Joan Hickson, She is by far the best one, just as Jeremy Brett is The Sherlock Holmes.

      I discovered a number of the series through the PBS Mystery Theatre shows.

    4. I agree about Joan Hickson! I can't even watch the new ones. Tried a couple of times, but they just didn't cut it for me.

    5. madamevauquer,

      I tried both of them and I even tried some of the films made decades ago, before Joan :Hickson.


  2. Good list, Fred. I've only read a couple of the authors though. I've been meaning to read Peter Robinson, just never have. Maybe I'll make up my own list of Favorite Series.

    1. Yvette,

      I hope you do post a list. Actually this post is a result of one of your posts which got me thinking along these lines. I can't remember which though.

  3. Wow, this is great, and there is a lot to comment upon here, so I will return in a day or so when I feel better with a more sensible, responsive comment.

    1. R.T.,

      Thanks. There's a lot of great reading in that list. I will be looking forward to your comments.

  4. Yes, Fred, I believe you when you say that there is so much good reading on your list, but I confess to having read only a handful of titles from half of your listed authors. Colin Dexter, I think, is my favorite on your list, and the husband-and-wife "Michael Gregorio" are a close second place. Have you read Arnaldur Indridason's Icelandic series? I would rank them high among my favorites. One thing I have realized recently is this sad fact: I have read many first-rate books that I have now forgotten, and that points to deficits of my mind rather than shortcomings of the books. I have recently come to the realization that I will soon need only one book. I can reread it repeatedly and think it is a new book with each reading. Such is life!

    1. R. T.,

      Yes, I've read three? so far by Indridason: Silence of the Grave, Outrage, and Jar City. I will read more by him, sometime anyway.

      I've seen similar lists by others, and I find that I've only read a few, if any, on their lists. There are so many out there.

      Yes, eventually I will have one book and one film and be content.

      I miss Inspector Morse, but I guess Dexter decided enough was enough. I've seen other series gradually go downhill because the author didn't know when to quit. I think that's why Bernard Knight ended his Crowner John series and began two others. It looks as though Gregorio has also started a new series, which may mean we will see no more of his Prussian magistrate. (sigh)

  5. The only series listed (2nd list) that I enjoyed both the tv series and the books is Brother Cadfael. For Lord Peter, I enjoyed the series, read the books but only thought of them as "ok." Loved the series Morse (but can't seem to get into the new Insp Lewis series). Read a few of the books, not favorites. Adam Dalgliesh - I love the tv series, possibly mainly because of Roy Marsden. The few books I read didn't seem to have enough of Dalgliesch for me; too much time with the other characters, usually the bad guys.

  6. madamevauquer,

    It was the TV productions of James' books that got me reading mysteries. I saw _Cover Her Face_ and got so intrigued that I went out and bought the book. It was "downhill" after that. I've read all of her mysteries, including Pemberley, and the SF novel that she wrote (not recommended).

    The "Lewis" series are OK, but if his Sgt. ever leaves, I will stop watching.

    I had problems with the TV Cadfael show because I just couldn't see Derek Jacobi as an ex-Crusader and mercenary soldier. Otherwise the show was very good.

    I have watched both the Morse and the Lord Peter series at least twice and will probably watch them again.

  7. As a late entry into the TV series discussion, I offer my two-cents: The _Endeavor_ series (dramatizing Morse's early years) is very good.

    1. R.T.,

      I enjoyed watching it more than the Lewis spinoffs.