'CORE' Best Lists
- Top 25 Best Mystery Books
- The Top 100 Mystery Books
- Best Mystery Audiobooks
- Best Mystery Books of 2016
- Best Mystery Books of 2015
- Best Mystery Series
- Best Mystery Stand Alones
- Best Modern Mystery Books
- Best Indie Mystery Books
- Best Classic Mystery Books
- Underrated Mystery Books
'ERA' Best Lists
'GENRE' Best Lists
- Best Legal Mystery Books
- Best Police Procedural Books
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'AUDIENCE' Best Lists
- Best Mystery Books for Women
- Best Mystery Books by Female Authors
- Best Young Adult Mystery Books
- Best Mystery Books for Children
We're straight off the bat with somewhat of a superstar among police procedural novelists. Michael Connelly is a legend, and his Harry Bosch series is where it all started. It's central figure, the 'ahem' uniquely named Hieronymous Harry Bosch, troubled Vietnam war vet turned LAPD Homicide Detective catches wind of a dead body in a drain pipe.
Everyone else suspects an overdosed junkie, but when he recognises the guy as a fellow Vietnam tunnel rat, he suspects there's more than meets the eye. Our stupidly named detective is a gruff and grouchy bastard, not your typical crime novel smart-ass cop, which actually makes a really nice change. He's a walking clich, war vet who's not quite over it, gets involved with a hot FBI agent despite his usual lack of social graces and previously non-existent love life, but then again this whole book is rife with cop clichs and it works.
It's an entertaining and straightforward story, what you see is what you get and it's pulled off with great pace. Connelly's command of settings is flawless, he manages to create a dark and dreary atmosphere that is consistent throughout, and the clear amount of research that Connelly has put into this novel is impressive also; he describes police procedure in meticulous detail, which can get a little tedious at times but on the whole it is interesting and great for anyone who wants to know the ins and outs of crime-solving.
Overall, whether you're a seasoned consumer of police procedurals or a newbie to the genre looking for somewhere to begin, The Black Echo is the perfect place to start, it was Connelly's first, and it won him the Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1993. With a gruff but likeable detective and a robust plot that will keep you guessing until the very end, it's an excellent example of police procedural at it's finest.
Our next protagonist is especially unique for a crime caper, as he is not particularly well-suited to action scenes. He is Lincoln Rhyme, an ex-criminologist and forensic genius left confined to a wheelchair after a tragic accident. Now a sadistic serial killer is leaving clues for Lincoln to follow, with the help of police detective Amelia Sachs, and the pair must try and trace the bodies and the bones back to the madman.
The dynamic between Amelia and Lincoln is enjoyable, and the pair make a fantastic team; Lincoln is a great character, hard not to like even when he's having a moment of being grumpy and ill-tempered. Amelia is strong and instantly likeable, and she brings out the best in the sometimes harsh Lincoln. The Bone Collector has a very strong focus on the forensic aspect, and Deaver clearly researched the subject thoroughly, with extensive detail on crime scenes, evidence, cop lingo and forensic terminology.
The weak-stomached out there be warned though, there are graphic scenes of torture in this book that some puss- I mean, people... just can't handle, so if gore is not your thing, be prepared. Nonetheless, even if it turns your stomach, it's worth your time to pick it up and read it; you'll be treated to an action-packed and suspenseful mystery that moves at a lightning speed, won the Nero Award for excellence in mystery in 1999 and cemented Jeffery Deaver's status as a truly talented writer.
This next novel is by the famous Ian Rankin, crime writer extraordinaire, who graces us here with Knots and Crosses, the first novel to star the complex, compelling and much-loved Inspector Rebus. In this first outing John Rebus is not an Inspector yet though, still a Detective Sergeant, the ex-SAS Scot works for the Edinburgh police, and has a fairly unremarkable career.
This all changes when a killer dubbed The Edinburgh Strangler begins kidnapping and murdering little girls, and Rebus starts receiving strange anonymous letters, culminating in a race against time to find and apprehend the murderous mystery man before another girl dies. It's disturbing subject matter for sure, but Rankin makes it readable and intriguing through his characters and setting. Rebus is a hard-drinking, chain-smoking detective with a tough and cynical point of view and an unwavering sense of justice.
This complex and hard-boiled hero fits in perfectly with the dark and gritty Edinburgh surroundings which make an interesting and original backdrop for crime-solving escapades, and a welcome change from the more common crime novel locales. This novel is gritty but not especially gory - more than anything it is an intriguing character-driven story that will whet the appetite for Rankin's creation and incite a reading frenzy. Be prepared, once you read this you'll want to move quickly onto it's sequels to drink in more of this dark side of Edinburgh and its flawed protector, and with 18 sequels and counting, Knots and Crosses is just a drop in the ocean.
This next novel is a modern great, considered to be one of the first and most popular mystery thrillers, decades before Stieg Larsson claimed the territory. Set in the 80s in Soviet Russia, we meet Homicide Investigator ArkadyRenko on the case of a triple homicide in a Moscow amusement centre. Though it's not the fact that the victims have had their faces and fingers removed that attracts Renko to the case, it's that he believes it's very rude to leave corpses in a place meant for leisure, which gives an indication of what kind of man Arkady is; he's brilliant and sensitive yet he is cynical about his profession and refuses to follow the party line.
He knows how the system works and how to work the system, not objecting to losing evidence to keep crime rates down. In his investigation to find the defiler of the amusement centre, Arkady ends up butting heads with the KGB, the FBI and the NYPD, not in pursuit of the course of justice but just to prove he's in the right. Martin Cruz Smith builds this world of high political tensions masterfully around his self-righteous protagonist, creating a strong sense of place and giving a great insight into the historical and political climate that is fully realised and is the perfect backdrop for the twisty plot.
It's all masterfully written, and it's stands the test of time and even over 30 years later the writing still does not feel dated. This is a true master stroke of international police procedural writing that is a must read for fans of the genre that are looking for something out of the usual bounds of American and British police forces.
Now for a dose of medical mystery courtesy of Tess Gerritsen, creator of TV duo Rizzoli and Isles. Fans of the television show will be a bit surprised to notice some big differences in the novel that started it all. For starters Isles is nowhere, instead we have the kick-ass Jane Rizzoli and her male partner Detective Thomas Moore. The two are working a particularly disturbing case as a killer dubbed The Surgeon is killing women by taking out their stomachs, intestines and uterus with surgical precision and then cutting their throats.
This maniac with a medical background is mirroring a serial killer who was killed years ago, can the pair stop him from carrying out his grisly ritual? This is a truly disturbing case that is not for those with a strong aversion to gore or anyone deeply affected by descriptions or discussions of rape. It's a brutal and action-packed thriller, that moves at a breakneck pace, and whilst this novel won an award for the best romantic suspense novel in 2002, it's hard to take notice of the romance element as the blood, gore and all of the murders draw away from that aspect and instead the focus is heavily on the forensic work.
There is an intense level of realism pertaining to the forensic work conducted by the characters in The Surgeon, Gerritsen clearly researched her subject well, and it shows, this is not the glamorous smooth-sailing forensic work you see on CSI, it's hard work. Even greater about this book is the sense of absolute fear and terror it creates; Gerritsen gets under the skin to create a truly mystifying and terrifying tale of torture and death that will stick in the mind long after the story is over.
This next book follows more typical police procedures than the ones usually found in fiction. Centering around Gary Hollings, a rookie in the Westland Park PD bordering Kansas City and his experiences on the beat, it's less high-profile serial murder, and more low-profile day-to-day police work that being said though, Gary does see a lot of action for a beat cop; tackling shootings, serial rapes, drug busts, burglaries gone wrong and corruption in the line of duty.
Gary is a likeable and fairly relatable guy; he's ambitious and wants to make something of himself, but he's not a dick in how he goes about it. He's got his own insecurities, and isn't an infallible alabaster model cop, and as most cops (in fiction at least) do, he has a questionable and troubled world-view of women. He is complex and layered, but this is complexity is lacking in other characters, which depending on how you look at it could actually be a great thing a whole book filled with characters as multi-layered as Gary Hollins could get crowded and confusing quite easily.
That's enough about Gary for now, the actual story is refreshing in that it is gritty and authentic, these are not just sensational high-thrill cases, but true to life problems the ones cops deal with everyday. That's not to say this lacks thrills far from it! The every day problems culminate in a high-stakes, volatile ending that explodes almost from thin air, and the shocking reveal of the identity of the mystery serial rapist/killer that has eluded capture for so long it's actually pretty impressive. All in all, Midnight Sin is an enthralling novel with an exciting conclusion that will keep you guessing until the very end, one that is bound to be enjoyed by fans of procedurals, crime dramas and anyone looking for an in-depth insight into the lives of the people behind the investigations.
If you love a book that can pull off a good clich or two, and can stomach a full platter of stereotypy, then you'll love Rules of Prey. Let's start counting clichs; Lucas Davenport is a gritty rogue cop (ding! That's one!), who is hunting a serial killer in the 1980s (ding! Two!). The killer is insane (ding!) but extremely intelligent (ding!).
Okay, so I think you get my point, this book has pretty much every clich imaginable, and for all intents and purposes it sounds like it should be awful, like the type of mass-produced garbage that is constantly churned out by two-bit authors and should be thrown aside hastily but it isn't! John Sandford has managed to fill a book with clichs and make it not suck a true skill, I'm sure you'll agree! The protagonist is a bit of a bastard, manipulating people as he sees fit, and doesn't hesitate to commit crimes himself if he feels it's necessary, he believes the ends justify the means, will do anything to get the guy, and thankfully has enough personality to surpass being a total stereotype... just about.
Furthermore, the procedural and political sides of police work as portrayed by Sandford actually seem somewhat authentic and plausible in the context of a thriller plot (even if his protagonist is not quite so realistic) clearly his previous work as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who covered crime paid off heavily here! It's kind of pulpy, and more than a little trashy, but Rules of Prey is compelling, fun and entertaining trash that fans of police procedural novels should read for a light read with lots of thrills and violence.
Next stop on our procedural pathway is Ystad, Sweden. It is here that we meet Kurt Wallander. Kurt has a messy personal life; a failed marriage, a troubled teenage daughter (which teens aren't?) and his estranged father is losing his marbles. Poor, desperate Kurt is under a lot of stress trying to balance this difficult life with his police work, which is just about to get harder. In a remote farmhouse a farmer has been found bludgeoned to death and his wife found left for dead hanging from a noose, uttering the word foreign with her last breath.
In a highly inflammatory climate in which anti-immigration sentiments are high, this case could result in a potential shit-storm and be the final push that could unleash a wave of anti-immigrant violence on Sweden. Can Kurt solve the case and help stem the flow of political violence? Poor, poor Wallander. He's just an ordinary everyday detective, he doesn't possess unfathomable intellect or powers of perception like Sherlock Holmes or Columbo, nor is he a bulky man of action.
Not a risk taker, Wallander just does his job, does what needs to be done to solve his case this fallible-yet-determined man is relatable because he's just human and proves that you don't need to be a superstar detective to be able to do the job. This well-written and intriguing novel is pretty bleak due to the sorry state of affairs that is Kurt Wallander's life.
It moves at a slow pace, yet is still interesting to read, in fact it is written so well and is so compelling that it won the Swedish Crime Writers' Academy Award for Best Crime Novel of the Year (1991). Filled with false leads, foreign tensions, and a painfully realistic protagonist, Faceless Killers is an excellent look at the darker side of Sweden to be enjoyed by lovers of gory murder mysteries with a detective's touch.
Now, if you've not heard of the main character of this next book (or rather, series of books) or at the very least, the author who created him then I'd suggest that you've probably been living under a rock and should question how much of a fan of detective novels you really are. James Patterson is pretty much the man when it comes to police procedural/detective/crime novels.
He is one of the most prolific crime writers around, and his most famous creation is Alex Cross the much-loved detective and psychologist who is, for a nice change from most fictional detectives, black (and had the great privilege of being played by the almighty Morgan Freeman in his Hollywood ventures). In his first outing, Alex is tasked with investigating a double kidnapping case, two children from prominent families have been kidnapped by a psychopathic serial killer who is looking for exposure and fame or rather, infamy and notoriety. Along the way Alex must work with Secret Service agent Jezzie Flanagan, who of course, he bangs.
To be fair, whilst it's not an entirely convincing romance, it is very subtle and well-handled. The plot itself though is fast, twisty and gripping, yet easy to follow and for those with short attention spans, rejoice! Short, snappy chapters make it perfect for quick, short bursts of reading, and keep the story moving at a fast pace. Whilst the ending may be a little too perfectly placed to be entirely believable, it is surprising and thrilling, just as to be expected from James Patterson. Whether you've read Patterson's work before or not, Along Came A Spider is an absolute must-read for fans of detective thrillers/police procedural novels, it is a true classic of the genre and the cornerstone of a long-running and highly celebrated series that is not to be missed.
Now the powerhouse mother-daughter writing team, P.J. And Traci Lambrecht, better known collaboratively as P.J. Tracy. Their dbut novel, Monkeewrench is a fun and engaging tale about life imitating video games. It all begins with a video game company called Monkeewrench who produce, in limited release, a video game artfully titled: Serial Killer Detective. It's all well and good until two real-life murders mimic scenarios in the game.
The case is taken by Detective Magozzi, who embarks upon solving it and trying to get into the pants of one of Monkeewrench's owners, whilst other bizarre murders that are also apparently linked to the strange case start cropping up. This book is a refreshing read, that for once portrays cops as nice, normal, genuine people rather than almost homicidal dickbags who could snap and kill someone at any moment, the characters are all vivid and complex whilst simultaneously authentic and vulnerable.
These characters add depth to a wonderfully absorbing and diverse novel of multiple stories that intertwine and and come together smoothly, and all of which have satisfactory resolutions. This highly enjoyable and suspenseful slice of police procedural parable is made complete with rich and realistic dialogue and an edge-of-your-seat storyline, making it a novel that nobody should pass up the opportunity to read.
This dbut novel from a novelist with a background in law enforcement and a clear attachment and passion for the American West is a fantastic introduction to the wondrous world of his creation, Walt Longmire. Walt is a Sheriff in Absaroka County, Wyoming. You may be wont to picture an old-timey Sheriff, but Walt is no mere stereotype, sure he has the hat and the tan jacket, but he prefers to drive a muscle car rather than the expected beat-up pick-up, and is not a gun-toting grouch, instead being quite averse to guns.
He's not entirely original though, not passing up the opportunity for a typical trait of detectives, whether Western or not, he is a Vietnam vet. Sheriff Longmire works with his childhood friend and occasional deputy, yet another Vietnam vet, Native American Henry Standing Bear. The dialogue between the two men is fantastic; they are both men of few words, but they often bait each other with inside jokes.
This amazing dialogue extends beyond just the two, being one of the true highlights of the book, littered with terrific one-liners and pop culture and literary references aplenty. This pair of stoic sleuths have their work cut out for them upon the discovery of the shot-up body of Cody Pritchard, a rapist who along with his three accomplices was given a suspended sentence for the rape of a North Wyoming girl. Is this a case of someone playing the vengeful vigilante and taking the law into their own hands?
This is a well-written weave of the Western genre with detective fiction, filled with beautiful vistas and a unique insight into Native American culture, as well as providing some sweet adrenaline rushes and overflowing with deliciously snarky humour; Cold Dish brings the old West and police procedurals together for a fun detective mystery with a nice flavour of American Western lore.
Our next novel is an immensely well-informed look at the inner workings of the District Attorney's office that is filled with suspense and realism. Written by real-life D.A. Linda Fairstein, who specialised in the prosecution of sex crimes, this prolific prosecutor uses her vast expert knowledge to inform her novel and her main character, Alexandra Cooper. Cooper is a fictional Fairstein stand-in, being the top sex crimes prosecutor in Manhattan, who has woken up to see her own murder announced in the paper. Suffice it to say, the information is wrong, and the true identity of the victim turns out to be a Hollywood starlet who was staying at Alex's swanky Martha's Vineyard retreat but was she really the intended victim?
It's a satisfying, well structured and twisty plot that is made doubly impressive by the extra insight into the inner workings of the New York District Attorneys office and it's relationship with the police department that is provided by Linda Fairstein's real-life experiences. It is very graphic in terms of relaying sex crimes, but overall the story is a slow-burning and dramatic one, if at times a little bit too melodramatic. Fairstein's characters start out well and develop to be even better in later books in the series, however this first instalment is the best place to start (obviously) to get the full experience and to truly appreciate the invaluable insight that this unique author provides.
We're back with James Patterson now, but on to a different series The Women's Murder Club. It's not a club that murders women, nor a club of women that murder, this is a series that revolves around a group of four women who work together to solve murders. These are not amateur sleuths though, they are each professionals who work together to share private interdepartmental information in order to track and stop the murderer of young newly-wed women.
The depiction of women in this novel is far from on point, it's stilted and forced, and doesn't sound even vaguely authentic, however the plot in itself is diverting enough. Reactions towards this book and this series in general are a bit love or hate, a lot of people hate on this book because it's pretty trashy, and even Patterson himself admits that he wrote them purely because he knew they would sell.
Okay, so it's neither great nor ideal when an author has no confidence or stake in their own book, but nonetheless Patterson was right - they do sell, and they sell for a reason; they're compelling in that trashy, junk-food type of way, it's addictive literature. This book gives people a shot of what they want, suspense at a furious pace, Patterson's signature short chapters once again keep everything moving quickly and allowing for quick fire bursts of reading that keep you coming back again and again for another hit.
It's not Patterson's best, nor the very best of the genre, but for a quick and simple detective mystery that will keep you hooked (even if not intellectually stimulated), 1st To Die is a police procedural trash fiction that should be pulled out of the garbage and embraced for what it is, a habitual drug of a novel to tide over it's readers until something a little more flashy comes along, and at this it excels.
Roll up, roll up for the beginnings of an icon of modern popular culture! This is the very first Hannibal Lecter novel, the one that introduced the world to the cannibal whose name ever so conveniently rhymes with his nature, and has become one of the greatest villains of modern times. In this first novel though, Hannibal actually plays a very small supporting role. He looms over the mentally unstable Will Graham during the course of his investigations like a dark cloud, terrifying and and toxic, but still not taking centre stage.
The main focus of the novel is (as you probably gathered) Will Graham; the FBI profiler with a unique insight into the minds of killers. He has sky-high levels of empathy and an immensely vivid imagination that gives him the ability to put himself firmly in the shoes of murderers, to survey a crime scene and be the killer; understand their thoughts, their feelings and what they did.
It takes it's toll on poor Will, but it is intriguing to peer in on the degradation of his mind as he follows these sadistic paths of logic. Unfortunately, Thomas Harris is just not a very good writer, even Stephen King famously said so, but nonetheless he has a skill for telling great stories, and that is precisely what this is. Once you get past the initial shock that this is, without a doubt, terrible writing, everything starts to come together and draws you in and incites a true sense of eagerness to find out what is going on and how everything will turn out.
It's an immersive novel that fans of Hannibal, particularly the shiny new TV series that has borrowed heavily from this source novel, should definitely dive into for the interesting back story surrounding everyone's favourite cannibal's early days (even if he is somewhat absent here).
Next we're in Nebraska and three young boys have been brutally murdered, luckily the guy who did it has been caught and executed so all is well again. That is until Sheriff Nick Morelli is called to the scene of yet another horrific murder and it's readily apparent that the actual murderer is still on the loose. Trying to help the local police fix this major cock-up is FBI Profiler Maggie O'Dell, who swoops in to provide a profile and try to actually catch the right guy this time, a truly disturbing killer who is evil at heart, relishing in every sadistic act and his own ability to continue on unapprehended.
The characters are pretty likeable and fairly deep and distinct, if a little annoying at times, although we don't get much in the way of character growth in terms of Maggie, never really learning too much about her. The story itself is a little predictable and does drag at points, containing some sections that were unnecessary at best, but even so it is an enjoyable read, and the world-building is largely realistic in spite of the predictability of it all.
Being able to peek into the mind of such a disturbing and elusive is interesting, even if insight into a killer's mind is a pretty typical element of detective fiction. The story doesn't really end with a neat and tidy conclusion, just as in real life there's no clean break, which leaves you ready and willing to pick up the next in the series just to see if it all gets wrapped up in future instalments. All in all, A Perfect Evil is not in fact perfect, but definitely an entertaining read for fans of detective fiction involving FBI profilers and serial killers.
Off to Canada now for a nice and typically Canadian detective novel, in which we meet our typically Canadian Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The brilliant detective and his team of investigators are called in to inspect the suspicious death of a woman found on a forest path in Montreal. Now I've said this novel is typically Canadian, and here is why; in investigation of the murder the team, particularly Gamache, are very polite and genteel in their methods.
The Chief Inspector relies heavily on simple observation, listening and simply saying to people: tell me what you know. This makes it a nice change from the slew of forensics-focused that occupy shelves today and harken back to more traditional detective novels. It's a much less aggressive policing style than is seen in novels centred on American police forces, and it's reflected not only in the characters but in the setting.
It is atmospheric, but not bleak and grim, instead it is picturesque and pleasant on the surface, devoid of explicit gore and violence which could fool the casual reader into thinking this is a cosy, but think again! With strong undercurrents of homophobia and prickling tensions between anglophones and francophones (basically English speakers versus French speakers), this is a lot darker than it might first seem.
Still Life was well-received, being awarded the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel and the Crime Writers' Association New Blood Dagger in 2006 as well as the Barry Award for Best First Novel, Anthony Award for Best First Novel and the Dilys Award in 2007, it is a critically acclaimed detective novel, and is highly deserving of all of it's awards. For a more gentle and cerebral approach to police work with less focus on physical violence, Still Life should be high on your list of priorities.
Another international detective thriller wings it's way to the top of the pile now as we are transported to Norway courtesy of Jo Nesb. The Snowman is part of his Harry Hole series, actually not the first in the series - strange decisions in translation and publication of the Norwegian novels into English mean that the first is not even available to those of us who can't actually read Norwegian, but of those that have been translated, The Snowman is among the best.
A truly chilling tale of a creepy serial killer who abducts and murders women and makes a snowman at the scene of each murder. It's a bit of an odd calling card, and the technicalities of a serial killer taking the time to make a snowman at the scene of the crime are called into question, but nonetheless, it's creepy: a tall snowman with a smile on his face staring into a home in which the mother has vanished without a trace. It's disturbing and potentially psychologically scarring, you may never look at a snowman the same way again.
Our main man on the creepy case though is Nesb's star, his anti-hero Detective with the Oslo police, Harry Hole (pronounced Hoo-leh). Harry is a rough, tough, action man with a strong sense of justice, strong ethical code and little regard for politics or personal consequences. He embarks upon a thrilling investigation, chasing down red herrings in a storyline that twists and reveals some shocking revelations, all the while moving at a taut, electrifying pace. For international detective fiction that will thrill and frighten, The Snowman is where it's at let's just hope that the stupidity over translation and publication can be resolved to allow all of Harry Hole's adventures to grace those who have been deprived of their awesomeness.
In Atlanta women are being killed by a murderer who signs his work with a gross act of mutilation he cuts out their tongues. It's a bizarre case, and it's tackled by a trio of troubled investigators, our triptych, which is comprised of Will Trent, Angie Polaski and John Shelley. Trent is a dyslexic detective, whose childhood friend Angie is also on this horrific case, though both of them tackling it from different angles.
Our third perspective comes from John Shelley, and ex-con who was convicted of the murder of a girl who also had her tongue bitten off he's insistent that he was innocent and someone is attempting to frame him now, but who can be trusted? Switching between the viewpoints of the main three, Triptych is engrossing, but quite frankly the perspective of the ex-con is much more interesting than that of the coppers'.
Don't get me wrong, all of Slaughter's characters have their strengths and their own layers of complexity that make them compelling, but the insight into life on parole and Shelley's attitude add a bit more vividness to his chapters over the others. Triptych is a blend between police procedural and the lives of the people behind the operation, trying to sort out real life problems that culminates in a gritty, warped tale that's tangled beyond reconciliation, but all the better for it.
It is violent, graphic and messy with a final encounter that is anything but original but is strong all the same as it carries with it all of the heavy emotion and consequence of everything that lead up to it. It reads like it was written by a man, probably the closest that a woman will come to penning a tale that feels authentically male in style but isn't entirely brash and unintelligent, Karin has truly mastered the art of literary slaughter.
Our next prime procedural introduces us to New Orleans detective Dave Robicheaux. A hard-boiled detective in his fifties, Dave is a Vietnam veteran (how many of those are on this list now..?!) who is haunted by his memories of the war and has turned to drink (yes I know, you've heard it all before, I'm getting to the good stuff I promise!).
Warned by a convict about to be executed that he is on someone's hit-list Dave must find out who before he kicks it, whilst simultaneously investigating the death of a young black prostitute found in the Bayou that seemingly no-one wants him to investigate. With his corrupt, rude and crude partner Cletus (who gets some of the best lines), Dave works to uncover a seething world of hidden corruption.
It's pretty standard, and Robicheaux is a walking, talking clich if there ever was one, but what makes this novel truly stand out from the crowd is it's setting. New Orleans is brought to life in rich detail, and the author actually seems to understand and authentically pen this particular subculture. The level of colour and charm with which New Orleans is characterised along with the strong focus on the difficulties of alcoholism and believable, compelling (if highly clichd) characters, make The Neon Rain a true pleasure to read; atmospheric and beautifully written, it is police procedural fiction with a strong sense of place that I dare you not to enjoy.
The Division Commander of Scotland Yard, Alastair Gilbert has just been murdered in his own kitchen and superintendents Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James have been called in to investigate his death. Investigating the private life of the public figure turns up some surprises however, and it seems the commander was not quite who he seemed to be.
As the pair dig around and uncover more clues the suspect list grows and the case continues to become more and more unsettling for the pair who are struggling to balance work and play. It's the fourth entry in the series, but the added dynamic of the growing yet shaky relationship between the pair of protagonists makes it all take a turn for the truly intriguing. These are realistic characters, not dominated by angst and not caricatures, with both major and minor characters being well fleshed out and all a pleasure to read about. The plot is well constructed, one that you may think you can predict, but you could end up more surprised than you might expect.
This is not a novel for thrill seekers though, it is soft and gentle reading, a police procedural that sticks more to traditional mystery territory and is best suited to those looking for a believable and cosy dose of police procedure with an added emotional element that will be especially welcomed and enjoyed by fans of the series so far.
We come now to the novel that introduced the world to an institution; the brilliant and unflappable Inspector Thomas Lynley. The first novel to star the implicitly likeable well-bred Inspector and his partner the socially challenged working class Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers is a wonderful induction into the dark side of Yorkshire (a phrase which really doesn't sound threatening in the slightest, but in Lynley novels, that dark side does exist!).
Working together to solve a gruesome murder that has shocked the peaceful British countryside, the pair offer an interesting contrast, even though it's hard to tell exactly what Havers does at this stage as she really doesn't contribute very much to the actual solving of the case, but nonetheless like all the other characters she is well-developed and intensely detailed (and there is even a duck called Angus DougalMcDuck, what's not to love about that?!).
For an American writer, Elizabeth George writes British procedural mystery very well, and if you didn't know better you wouldn't be able to tell she wasn't actually British in fact, in a stroke of irony, the one character that George has written that is purely annoying and cartoonish is in fact, American, but her Brits are spot on! The overall plot is well-placed, a little over dramatic at times, and fairly obvious in terms of the big secret, but even so it's all pretty superior to most everyday mysteries, being satisfyingly complex and providing a conclusion that will leave you stumped and prove it to be worthy of the Agatha Award (1988) and Anthony Award (1989) that this book was awarded on publication; it's a true classic and masterpiece of the genre that is not to be missed.
Now the talented writer of TV hit Prime Suspect brings a rookie into the fold and following in the footsteps of Helen Mirrens's veteran detective Jane Tennison. Our newbie detective is Anna Travis, embarking upon her first murder case, and what a case it is! Seven women have been murdered, all in identical gruesome fashion, all of them prostitutes except the latest victim who is a student.
As Anna sees it all the evidence points to a prominent and much-loved actor, but the backlash would be catastrophic if she arrests him and he is innocent, so now it's up to Anna and her team to find all the evidence and get to the bottom of the case. Anna Travis a wonderful character, she's keen, smart and vulnerable but has on-point instincts, and the rest of the cast are interesting enough to make you want to pick up the sequels to learn more about them.
The procedure of detection that the team undergo is well detailed, as is the psychology and the motives behind the murders, making this a fascinating read. As the killer is revealed pretty early on there is no twist for those of you who like shocking turns in their stories, instead the focus is on the process of how the team go about proving his guilt and working out how to catch him. The storyline is gratifyingly complex and brimming with intricate details and is made whole by the compelling relationships between the characters which make it an absolute must-read.
The strange death of a maid servicing a family in an old manor house brings stoic detective Adam Dalgliesh to investigate the complex case. The maid, Sally Jupp was found strangled in her own bed behind a locked door, and Adam must work out which member of this large household killed her, which is not as simple as it sounds as apparently they all had reason to do away with the manipulative maid (she was definitely servicing certain members of the family if you catch my drift!).
The story takes the form of an elegant classic murder mystery, running through the perspectives of each character making observations that at times are quite wickedly funny, and looking for inconsistencies in their stories. It's a warm, cosy and familiar format for fans of classic mystery, slow in comparison to more high-octane forensic thrillers but the plot is well constructed and beautifully complex.
Dalgliesh himself is not quite a fully formed character in this first novel, appearing quite late in the game and not really revealing much about himself, but he provides solid detection for the brief period in which he is present. Cover Her Face is a captivating novel by a master of mystery and it's a true pleasure to read for fans of clue style investigations at British manor houses that focus on more classic detection methods.
In Aberdeen, the Granite City, a child killer is on the loose. More and more bodies are piling up and more children are going missing. DS Logan McRae must catch the killer before even more children are murdered. Logan is an endearing figure, a hero with imperfections, but thankfully not an addict of any kind like most detectives in procedurals! He's more realistic, he's clever and charming yet sometimes puts his foot in it and does silly things, makes mistakes but picks himself up again.
He also has a horrendously filthy mouth that really ought to be washed out with soap! The gloomy and dreary setting of Aberdeen sets the tone perfectly, the city and it's infamously horrendous weather are described accurately and surprisingly vividly. Against this frozen, grey backdrop we are presented with a fast paced and shocking tale, overflowing with red herrings, it seems like the killer can be worked out easily enough until the plot takes another sharp turn and throws a spanner in the workings of your mind.
There is a fair amount of gore, and it's gruesome, especially so considering that the victims are children and so this may be a tad too disturbing for the more sensitive reader. Despite the plot itself being less than original and fairly predictable, the setting and descriptions of the inner workings of the police make it a fantastically worthwhile read that shows just why it was awarded the Barry Award for First Best Novel in 2006, it's a legitimately enjoyable read for all fans of the genre.
So when thriller writers run out of new places to set a novel, they only need to look down as they did in Subterranean. In this book, the author went down into the earth itself. Explorers find a series of labyrinths underneath Antarctica, in the ice at the bottom of the sea. This new area is filled with riches like you wouldnt believe, things that would make Donald Trumps hair stand on end oh wait.. Of course, anything this good has to have a downside and it turns out that others live in this caverns along with a monster thats not to be believed.
The book takes a little bit of accepting the hard-to-believe, but once you do, this tale is hard to put down. The plot has more twists and turns than the mazes written about in this tale. The idea of learning more about our world and our people from the caves would intrigue anyone interested in the world around us. This is a great thriller to end the list with, one that takes us to the ends of the earth and offers untold wealth some of the best things that the thriller genre has to offer. Be sure to pick up this book as soon as you can.
Our Version of the List
At a Glance
- 1 The Black Echo (Michael Connelly)
- 2 The Bone Collector: The First Lincoln Rhyme N...
- 3 Knots and Crosses: An Inspector Rebus Novel ...
- 4 Gorky Park (Martin Cruz Smith)
- 5 The Surgeon (Tess Gerritsen)
- 6 Midnight Sins (Michael Tabman)
- 7 Rules of Prey (John Sandford)
- 8 Faceless Killers (Henning Mankell)
- 9 Along Came A Spider (James Patterson)
- 10 Monkeewrench (P. J. Tracy)
- 11 The Cold Dish: A Longmire Mystery (Craig John...
- 12 Final Jeopardy (Linda Fairstein)
- 13 1st to Die (James Patterson)
- 14 Red Dragon (Thomas Harris)
- 15 A Perfect Evil (Alex Kava)
- 16 Still Life (Louise Penny)
- 17 The Snowman: A Harry Hole Novel (Jo Nesbo)
- 18 Triptych (Karin Slaughter)
- 19 The Neon Rain: A Dave Robicheaux Novel (James...
- 20 Mourn Not Your Dead (Deborah Crombie)
- 21 A Great Deliverance (Elizabeth George)
- 22 Above Suspicion (Lynda La Plante)
- 23 Cover Her Face (P.D. James)
- 24 Cold Granite (Stuart MacBride)
- 25 Cop Hater (Ed McBain)
Publicly Ranked Version of the List24 items >>
- Cop Hater (Ed McBain)
- A Perfect Evil (Alex Kava)
- Red Dragon (Thomas Harris)
- Monkeewrench (P. J. Tracy)