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ABOUT BOOKS AND READING > Are you a mystery book fan? Favorite mystery authors? Why?

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message 1: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Feb 02, 2009 06:29PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Are you a mystery book fan? When I was in college, our history professor told us that her hobby was reading mysteries. I've never forgotten that.

What mystery writers are your favorites and why?

I've enjoyed Lawrence Sanders and Robert B Parker's "Spenser" series. I suppose they would be called Detective Stories too.

Sanders mysteries were easy to follow. I also liked the sandwiches he described. (g)

I liked Parker's wry humor, his sidekick (name?), and his girlfriend, Susan. They had a great relationship.

Of course, who could forget the _The Big Sleep_ and _The Long Goodbye_ by Raymond Chandler! He was a master of similes. Here are a few from _The Big Sleep_:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"...her face fell apart like a bride's pie crust."
"She brought the glass over. Bubbles rose in it like false hopes."
"The sunshine was as empty as a headwaiter's smile."
"The purring voice had an edge, like sand in the bearings."
"The incident [is:] closed...as tight as a vault with a busted time lock."
"I hung there motionless, like a lazy fish in the water."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Who are your favorite mystery writers and why?


message 2: by John (new)

John | 14 comments Hi Joy,

I am a fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series. I like the books almost as much for their humor as for their neat, confounding puzzles...

--John


message 3: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Hi John - Hmmm, I like humor. So perhaps I should look into those Rex Stout books in the Nero Wolfe series.

Are the plots very complex? If so, they're not for me.

Is there a large number of characters to keep track of? If so, the books are not for me.

Hate to admit it, but I like simple mysteries. But they have to be written with style.


message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 6156 comments I just finished reading The Maltese Falcon & mooched another book with a bunch of Dashiell Hammett's stories. I also got "The Big Sleep" by Chandler & am planning on reading it soon.

Roger Zelazny released a new book, The Dead Man's Brother written in that genre. Zelazny was known for SF & Fantasy, blending the two until you really couldn't figure out which genre you were reading. Apparently he wrote this novel, but it never was published. He died in 1995, but his son & old agent found it while digging through his old stuff. It is available on Amazon & I had a copy as soon as it was released. It was excellent.

I'm also a big fan of Mickey Spillane. I like his novella's & singles better than the Mike Hammer series. I don't like his Tiger Mann series at all.


message 5: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Thanks, Jim. I'm keeping track of all of these suggestions for future reference. The nice thing about Goodreads is that these threads will remain online indefinitely and won't time out, as far as I know. I think I'll go to the Feedback Group and ask about that.


message 6: by Don (new)

Don (ddonofrio3) | 86 comments I like a lot of mystery authors;

James Lee Burke
Stuart Woods
Robert Randisi
All the classic mystery authors


message 7: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Feb 03, 2009 05:17PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments I'm really not familiar with the names of mystery authors... except for the ones who are always on the Best Seller lists. Seems that mysteries are among the top sellers.

Below are links to the authors you mentioned, Don, for folks reading these posts:
James Lee Burke
Stuart Woods
Robert Randisi


message 8: by Jackie (last edited Feb 05, 2009 08:05AM) (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) | 4050 comments James Patterson
Tami Hoag
J D. Robb's Eve Dallas series
Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone Mysteries
Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series


Agatha Christie & Iris Johansen deserve a mention.
And while Mary Higgins Clark is predictable, she's an easy read. I liked her Willie and Elvira series best.



message 9: by Werner (new)

Werner To be honest, I haven't read as many mysteries as I'd like to have, though I really enjoy the genre and want to read more in it eventually. (I was a big fan of the classic mystery adaptations on PBS' Mystery! series, though I haven't seen that listed lately.) Unlike Jim, though, I'm more drawn to the traditional ("cozy" --though I don't like that term and don't think it's accurate!) variety than to the "hard-boiled" authors he named. My favorite mystery authors are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Ellis Peters (whose real name was Dame Edith Pargeter). I also like some of the modern additions to the Holmes canon: the novels featuring Prof. Moriarity by John Gardner (not the same John Gardner who wrote Grendel), and The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. (The latter lady happens to be one of my Goodreads friends --but I liked the book before we "met" on Goodreads. :-)) That novel is actually the first of a series, which provides Holmes, in his "retirement" years keeping bees on the Sussex downs (but do you think Holmes would ever really retire? :-)) with a young female protege, Mary Russell, who's as smart as he is. As yet, I haven't read any further into the series, but I plan to!

If you enjoy short mystery fiction, a really good older anthology is The Delights of Detection (1961). It's edited by Jacques Barzun, a world-class historian who was also a mystery buff.


message 10: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Feb 05, 2009 10:30AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Jackie wrote: "James Patterson
Tami Hoag
J D. Robb's Eve Dallas series
Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone Mysteries
Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series "


Thanks for adding those authors to this thread, Jackie.
Yes, they certainly do deserve a mention!
Perhaps folks will comment further on them.

PS-I didn't enjoy my first Agatha Christe book. So I never read another. I didn't like her style of writing. Same thing for Grafton.


message 11: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) | 4050 comments I'm not overly fond of Agatha Christie, and haven't read that many of her novels.



message 12: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Werner wrote: "To be honest, I haven't read as many mysteries as I'd like to have, though I really enjoy the genre and want to read more in it eventually. (I was a big fan of the classic mystery adaptations on P..."

Werner, Thanks for your post, so chock-full of comments and references. I enjoyed the Ellis Peters books. They certainly have a lot medieval atmosphere to them, which makes them even more spooky and mysterious. The TV versions didn't give me the same feeling as the books.

Thanks for recommending The Delights of Detection. Sounds like a good book to have on the shelf, both virtual and RL. I like short mysteries.

Seems to me I have a paperback of short mysteries lying around which is a collection by the great movie director... whose name escapes me at the moment. I believe he directed "Psycho". Ah yes, Alfred Hitchcock! He probably has edited a good number of short mystery collections.


message 13: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 6156 comments Werner, thanks for clearing up John Gardner. I only read a couple of the new James Bond books, but I didn't think it was the same man as wrote "Grendel". i've been meaning to look it up for years.

I too like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My grandfather must have had a dozen sets of his Sherlock Holmes books when he died. I got a nice 2 volume edition that I read, plus a copy of "The White Company" which I've been meaning to get round to.


message 14: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Jackie wrote: "I'm not overly fond of Agatha Christie, and haven't read that many of her novels."

Jackie, I should really give AC another try sometime. As you said, she's an easy read. I like that in a mystery. (g) You said that you "liked her Willie and Elvira series best." So perhaps I'll try to remember that. Is that one series, or two?


message 15: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckymurr) I like the Scapetta books & the similar ones written by Kathy Reichs(Bones). I have read some of Tami Hoag's books-I guess that is all I can think of in the "mystery" type of book....


message 16: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Becky wrote: "I like the Scapetta books & the similar ones written by Kathy Reichs(Bones). I have read some of Tami Hoag's books-I guess that is all I can think of in the "mystery" type of book.... "

I've heard of those, but never tried them, Becky.
There's a whole new world to explore.
I don't know how anyone could ever say they're bored!!!


message 17: by Sara (new)

Sara (saralphb) | 8 comments I really enjoy M.C. Beaton's Hamish MacBeth series. I don't care for her Agatha Raisin character though. Nancy Bell's Biggie series is a comical, entertaining, fast read. I am struggling through Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye and I just can't get used to his style. I don't particularly like Phillip Marlowe. Is he trying to be an Archie Goodwin? He's not succeeding...
I love Rex Stout, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers. I really enjoy Margery Allingham's Albert Campion character. I'm surprised nobody mentioned him yet. I like Peter Lovesy on occasion, but they can be a little heavy. I also like Lillian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who... series for a light read. P.D. James is also great, but also heavy. Her lighter ones usually involve Inspector Dalghliesh but even those are a little heavy.

I've been looking for new mystery authors and I appreciate all the great leads from this conversation. Thanks for letting me join this group!


message 18: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Welcome to the group, Sara! Nice to see you here.

Looks like you've read quite a few mysteries by different authors. Thanks for your comments about them.

When you describe a book as "light" or "heavy", what qualities are you referring to? I imagine "light" means easy to read and follow but what makes a book "heavy", in your opinion.

When it comes to mysteries, I don't enjoy a story with too many characters to keep track of. Is that what you mean by "heavy"? Or do you mean that the plot is convoluted? Or both?

I was able to follow the movie of Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" which had quite a few different characters to follow, but in movies it's easier to keep track of characters because we recognize them from their faces as well as their names.

I haven't had a great deal of experience reading mysteries, but I have read some.

Right now I'm enjoying _Death Straight Up_ by Fay Rownell. I'd call it a light mystery. The author is one of the Mavens of Mystery.
See: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/6...
and
http://www.poststar.com/articles/2008...
She has a witty style of writing. This is her first book. When I first saw her at a book fair (on a panel of women mystery writers) I could tell she had a good sense of humor.

I'm plowing through another book at the same time (for an in person book club) and this book is a welcome relief. :)


message 19: by Sara (new)

Sara (saralphb) | 8 comments Joy,
Thank you for your detailed reply and for the additional leads. I do love mystery novels. I have wonderful memories of my father and me reading them aloud to each other and trying to guess "whodunit." Your definition of "light" coincides with mine. By "heavy" I generally mean mysteries that are brutal and violent or dealing with topics that are controversial, the latter of which can be interesting but I have to be prepared for that kind of book. I don't like a lot of graphic violence, which is why I stay away from some of the more contemporary authors. I enjoy a good puzzle, if you know what I mean. Agatha Christie is classic, and I especially love Miss Marple.

Mystery novels are a great way to provide relief from getting bogged down by the other novels that we want to read, but must "plow through." If I only read those books I probably wouldn't read as much as I do. :)

Thank you again.




message 20: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Feb 13, 2009 09:45AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Sara wrote: "Joy,
Thank you for your detailed reply and for the additional leads. I do love mystery novels. I have wonderful memories of my father and me reading them aloud to each other and trying to guess "w..."


You're welcome, Sara,
How lucky you were to have a dad who read with you and who chose mystery novels so that you both could try to figure out the mystery together. What fun that must have been. It gives me an idea for interacting with my own grandchildren.

Thanks for explaining the word "heavy" which you used to describe some mysteries. Now I see what you mean. I too would want to avoid violent or brutal stories. However, when I read the mysteries of Lawrence Sanders, I found them to be light reading despite the violent way some of the victims were killed. So I suppose it depends on the treatment of the violence in the story.

Unlike you, I've never enjoyed puzzles, especially those which are difficult. They're too much work. (g)

It's been fun sharing ideas with you. I agree that it's the enjoyment of light reading which enables me to stay motivated toward the reading of more serious literature. Kind of like comic relief. (g)


message 21: by Werner (new)

Werner Joy, I found this thread by clicking on "view all" at the top of the "About Books and Reading" folder, and then just scrolling. (I knew it was there somewhere, because I'd run across my earlier comment on it this morning, when I was going through all my comments in this group to see if I'd mentioned the Food City 5 for 5 deal before. :-)) I thought I'd just bring it to people's notice by posting this comment --a lot of times, I don't have good luck trying to post links! :-)


message 22: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jun 22, 2009 11:11AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Werner wrote: "Joy, I found this thread by clicking on "view all" at the top of the "About Books and Reading" folder, and then just scrolling. (I knew it was there somewhere, because I'd run across my earlier co..."

Werner, thank you very much for doing the manual search by scrolling. I tried that but missed the topic. Don't know why my "keyword search" didn't work. Maybe I didn't look at the results thoroughly enough.

Anyway, now that we've found it, I'll post the link to the other topic about "cozy mysteries", also in this section of our group discussions. Here 'tis: ====>
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...

Thanks once again!


message 23: by Catamorandi (new)

Catamorandi (wwwgoodreadscomprofilerandi) i think that Anne Perry is the best mystery writer around today. She deals with the Victorian era and really does her homework well. It is authentic Victorian writing. Her characters are great and the plots have a lot of twist and turns in them. She is just an all-around great author.


message 24: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jun 22, 2009 01:29PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Camerandi wrote: "i think that Anne Perry is the best mystery writer around today. She deals with the Victorian era and really does her homework well. It is authentic Victorian writing. Her characters are great a..."

Randi, about those twists and turns in the plots, are they difficult to follow? I've always wondered about Ann Perry's writings. Haven't read any yet.


message 25: by Linda (new)

Linda (goodreadscomlinda_p) | 1163 comments Mystery books - back in the 80's I read every one of Agatha Christie's books. Traded paperback books of hers with coworkers.

Love the McNally's series by Lawrence Sanders. For whatever reason, my mind's vision of Archy is the tv character Frazier!!




message 26: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Linda wrote: "Mystery books - back in the 80's I read every one of Agatha Christie's books. ... Love the McNally's series by Lawrence Sanders. ..."

I enjoyed the Lawrence Sanders mysteries too. I read the "Deadly Sin" series and the "Commandment" series. Below is a link to one of them:
_First Deadly Sin Part 1 Of 2_


message 27: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 24, 2009 12:41PM) (new)

So many of the authors mentioned above I've read and loved, so I won't list them. I didn't see Lawrence Block mentioned, he has a couple of series that are quite interesting, as well as a huge amount of short stories. He can be dark, but his sense of humor is dry to say the least. A good combination.

Also Henning Mankell has a most interesting detective series.
Another would be Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö for a detective series.
Oh, another... Jo Nesbo, I've only read one of those, The Redbreast but found it to be excellent.


message 28: by Catamorandi (new)

Catamorandi (wwwgoodreadscomprofilerandi) Joys said "Randi, about those twists and turns in the plot, are they difficult to follow?"


I think they are just distractions with different suspects until you find out the real one. She may turn to get people of their idea of who it is. You are paying so much attention to who you you think the suspect is that you don't see the real suspect till close to the end.


message 29: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jun 25, 2009 06:47PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Pontalba wrote: "So many of the authors mentioned above I've read and loved, so I won't list them. I didn't see Lawrence Block mentioned, he has a couple of series that are quite interesting, as wel..."

Pontalba, thanks for the links to those authors. I see that Lawrence Block has won a good number of awards for his mysteries.


message 30: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Camerandi wrote: "Joys said 'Randi, about those twists and turns in the plot, are they difficult to follow?' I think they are just distractions with different suspects until you find out the real one. She may ..."

Sometimes I lose patience with twists and turns. I don't think my mind was cut out for that type of mystery. It's always been my theory that readers who appreciate complex mysteries must have very good memories and therefore can follow the plot closely.


message 31: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 6156 comments I just finished reading the Aurora Teagarden mysteries by Charlaine Harris, the lady that writes the Sookie Stackhouse novels that the HBO series "True Blood" is based on.

I loaned some of her books to a friend here at work who really liked them. I only have the first Aurora Teagarden book, Real Murders but she bought ALL of them & loaned them to me. I think there were 7 & I read them in about 4 days. They're candy books. Easy, quick reads & I just HAD to read the next. No paranormal stuff, just straight mysteries with a bit of romance.


message 32: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Jim wrote: "I just finished reading the Aurora Teagarden mysteries by Charlaine Harris, the lady that writes the Sookie Stackhouse novels that the HBO series "True Blood" is based on."

Jim, thanks for the link to Charlaine Harris's webpage. I see that her character, Aurora Teagarden, is a Georgia librarian. Reminds me of another book about a librarian, _The Giant's House A Romance_ by Elizabeth McCracken. It was a good read.


message 33: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments THIS IS A COPY OF A POST I MADE TODAY IN OUR MOVIE DISCUSSION THREAD.
=====================================================
This week I watched "The Woman in White" (1997).
Below is a link to the Netflix description: ====>
http://www.netflix.com/Movie/The_Woma...

The movie is based on a famous mystery story written by Wilkie Collins in 1859.
The Goodreads description says:
"One of the greatest mystery thrillers ever written, Wilkie Collins' _The Woman in White_ was a phenomenal bestseller in the 1860s, achieving even greater success than works by Dickens, Collins' friend and mentor. Full of surprise, intrigue, and suspense, this vastly entertaining novel continues to enthrall readers today."

IIRC, I think I have to thank our member, Margaret, for telling me about Wilkie Collins and this celebrated mystery. Thanks, Margaret!

PS-To see more background on how I discovered the mystery, go to my review at:
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....
The above webpage contains more comments from various readers who gave further information about related readings.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Joy H. (of Glens Falls) wrote: "THIS IS A COPY OF A POST I MADE TODAY IN OUR MOVIE DISCUSSION THREAD.
=====================================================
This week I watched "The Woman in White" (1997).
Below is a link to the N..."

Have you read the book Joy? The film followed the book as far as it went, no real deviations that I can recall, although there was a pretty long time lag in-between my reading and watching. The one real inconsistency that I recall was the Count was, in the book, extremely overweight, so much so a great deal was made of it. His weight was almost a character onto itself.



message 35: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Pontalba wrote: "The one real inconsistency that I recall was the Count was, in the book, extremely overweight, so much so a great deal was made of it. His weight was almost a character onto itself."

Pontalba, thanks for pointing that out. Yes, I noticed that when I read the reviews of the book. I haven't read the book although I'm sure it must be a great read. I liked the way Simon Callow played the part of Count Fosco, even though he wasn't fat. :)


message 36: by Werner (new)

Werner Another collection of short mystery fiction that's very good overall is Magnolias and Mayhem, edited by Jeffrey Marks (Overmountain Press, 2000). The stories there are all by Southern writers and set in the South (but, of course, the South is a large and diverse region, which makes for a lot of variety). Compared to The Delights of Detection (mentioned above in message 9), these stories are much more recent, most having been written especially for this anthology. I read it several years ago, but only recently got around to reviewing it here on Goodreads; you can check out the review for more information if you're interested!


message 37: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 26, 2009 04:58PM) (new)

Oh, Werner, you've reminded me of another group of mysteries, short stories...
New Orleans Noir, Brooklyn Noir, London Noir, etc. There are versions for a lot of cities, in the U.S. and Europe.
All are collections of detective/mysteries that center on that particular city, and neighborhood. I've only read a few of them, and have enjoyed most of the stories.

I'm going to have to look up Magnolias and Mayhem. :)

AIE: http://www.amazon.com/Magnolias-Mayhe...

Neat. Thanks. :)


message 38: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jul 26, 2009 05:58PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Werner wrote: "Another collection of short mystery fiction that's very good overall is Magnolias and Mayhem, edited by Jeffrey Marks (OvermountaUin Press, 2000). The stories there are all by Southern writers and ..."

Werner and Pontalba, thanks for the recommendations.

Werner's interesting review of _Magnolias and Mayhem_ can be found at: ====>
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....

Below is a link to some of the "noir" mystery series (short stories set in different cities) which Pontalba mentioned: ====>
http://www.akashicbooks.com/noirserie...

Robert Knightly edited _Queens Noir_, a book from the above series. Last year I met Knightly at a meeting of the Mavens of Mystery, a group of NY mystery writers. Goodreads says: "Robert Knightly "is a trial lawyer in the Criminal Defense Division of the Queens Legal Aid Society. In another life, he was a lieutenant in the New York City Police Department."


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Joy wrote: Below is a link to some of the "noir" mystery series (short stories set in different cities) which Pontalba mentioned: ====>
http://www.akashicbooks.com/noirseries.h...


Swell link Joy! But thanks a lot, now I want them ALL !! lol


message 40: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Pontalba wrote: "Swell link Joy! But thanks a lot, now I want them ALL !! lol"

LOL - I wish I had time and energy to read them all! :)


message 41: by Jen (new)

Jen (nekokitty) | 182 comments I don't know very much about they mystery genre. I used to read Nancy Drew when I was a kid, if that counts! This is a genre that I want to explore, so I thank you in advance for the ideas in this thread. :)

One question, if you could recommend one author and/or book in this case, which would it be?


message 42: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Jul 31, 2009 02:15PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Jenni wrote: "I don't know very much about they mystery genre. I used to read Nancy Drew when I was a kid, if that counts! This is a genre that I want to explore, so I thank you in advance for the ideas in this thread. :) One question, if you could recommend one author and/or book in this case, which would it be? "

Jenni, I never was a big reader of mysteries. When I did read a mystery, I went for the lighter ones... the easy reads. I loved Robert B. Parker's "Spenser" mysteries. Also enjoyed Lawrence Sanders' stories. They were a bit darker than Parker's. Dorothy Gillman's light and entertaining "Mrs. Pollifax" stories were always enjoyable. See links to those authors below:

Robert B. Parker Robert B. Parker

Lawrence Sanders
Dorothy Gillman

PS-How could I forget the James Bond books by Ian Fleming? Loved those.
Ian Fleming Ian Fleming


message 43: by Werner (last edited Aug 04, 2009 05:33PM) (new)

Werner Earlier today, on one of our other threads, Joy noted that even though most mysteries involve murder, some of them seem "lighter" in tone while others come across as significantly darker. She raised the question of what accounts for the difference, and suggested that it may be the tone of the author's writing rather than the events of the plot per se.

I'd say that a critical factor here --and I haven't read much in the mystery genre, and very little in the really "dark" vein, so I'm no expert!-- is the nature of the author's (for want of a better term) moral vision. Most mysteries deal with human evil, and recognize it as tempting, pervasive, and hurtful; but how much they focus and dwell on depicting it makes a significant difference in how dark the novel or story appears. John Gardner and Laurie King, for instance, both write Sherlock Holmes spin-offs, and probably both share similar moral principles; but whereas in The Beekeeper's Apprentice the protagonists are the sympathetic representatives of good, the protagonist of Gardner's two Moriarty novels is evil --so those books make the reader feel more closely immersed in the evil goings-on and leave a darker taste in the mind, even though Gardner's message is anti-evil. An even deeper contrast runs through many modern mysteries. The genre traditionally has reflected the belief that though evil is real, it is morally anomalous in the universe, and the virtue and intellect of the detective will unmask and suppress it. The really dark modern mysteries repudiate that tradition; they see evil as the norm of the universe, and the idea of justice ever really being achieved as a naive and hopeless dream. (Now, that's an extremely dark kind of vision!)


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

Werner wrote: I'd say that a critical factor here --and I haven't read much in the mystery genre, and very little in the really "dark" vein, so I'm no expert!-- is the nature of the author's (for want of a better term) moral vision. Most mysteries deal with human evil, and recognize it as tempting, pervasive, and hurtful; but how much they focus and dwell on depicting it makes a significant difference in how dark the novel or story appears.

I have read a lot of mysteries, over many years. What you say makes perfect sense to me. Some authors do dwell on the puzzle solving and redemption angle of a story, while others seem to wallow in the crime itself. An author like, say for example, Patricia Cornwell started out showing the forensics side, but in a more non-confrontational manner. No, that's not exactly right, but on the right track anyhow. I guess what it boils down to for her in my opinion is that finally she started dwelling more on the gory aspects of a case. Yes, by their nature, her books have to be......bloodily descriptive, however in her first ones, that was not the main thrust, or at least she didn't seem to be going so much for the shock value of those descriptions. I've stopped reading her books, many books back because, while I find the procedures interesting, she seems to be putting more and more gory details simply for shock value, and not for story value. I'm sure it's a trap many authors have fallen into.

A good murder mystery is a little like a love affair, revealing layers upon layers, over time in not too graphic a manner.


message 45: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Werner wrote: "Earlier today, on one of our other threads, Joy noted that even though most mysteries involve murder, some of them seem "lighter" in tone while others come across as significantly darker. She raised the question of what accounts for the difference...
...I'd say that a critical factor here ... is the nature of the author's ... moral vision. Most mysteries deal with human evil ... but how much they focus and dwell on depicting it makes a significant difference in how dark the novel or story appears. ... for instance ... the protagonist of Gardner's two Moriarty novels is evil --so those books make the reader feel more closely immersed in the evil goings-on and leave a darker taste in the mind, even though Gardner's message is anti-evil.... The genre traditionally has reflected the belief that though evil is real, it is morally anomalous in the universe, and the virtue and intellect of the detective will unmask and suppress it. The really dark modern mysteries repudiate that tradition; they see evil as the norm of the universe, and the idea of justice ever really being achieved as a naive and hopeless dream. (Now, that's an extremely dark kind of vision!)"


Werner, thank you for picking up where I left off, and for continuing the discussion in this thread about the mystery genre. Your idea (that the point of view of the writing accounts for the difference between "lighter" and "darker" mysteries) is a valid one. When a book depicts evil as dominant over virtue, we're left with a hopeless feeling, or, as you say, "a darker taste in the mind". Perhaps when a story ends by giving us hope that good will triumph, we don't see the writing as being too dark.

Thanks for the interesting analysis. It has clarified the issue for me.


message 46: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Pontalba wrote (in reply to Werner): "... What you say makes perfect sense to me. Some authors do dwell on the puzzle solving and redemption angle of a story, while others seem to wallow in the crime itself. ... Patricia Cornwell started out showing the forensics side ... finally she started dwelling more on the gory aspects of a case. ... she seems to be putting more and more gory details simply for shock value, and not for story value. ..."

Pontalba, you've pointed out another factor which makes a mystery seem darker... the gory graphic descriptions. Not too pleasant.

Another angle is the fear factor. I find that when a novel fills me with tension and fear, I can't handle it. I'd call that novel dark. A good example is _The Firm_ by John Grisham. I felt compelled to read it to the end, but it took a toll on my nerves. Ever since then I've avoided reading Grisham's books.


message 47: by Werner (last edited Mar 25, 2010 09:06AM) (new)

Werner Wow, it's been awhile since we posted on this thread! I wanted to mention a new (to me) writer we haven't cited above, though she's been mentioned, by various pen names, on other threads: Elizabeth Peters, author of the Amelia Peabody series. Yesterday, I finished the series opener, Crocodile on the Sandbank, which I've reviewed here on Goodreads; I gave it 5 stars. It's an outstanding example of the historical mystery sub-genre, which blends mystery conventions with the historical fiction genre; the series is set in the milieu of late 19th and early 20th-century Egyptian archaeology. To describe it in terms of the immediately preceding discussion, it's definitely "light," in the moral sense, rather than dark, and not grisly-gory --in fact, the mystery in this volume doesn't involve murder. (Murders aren't the only type of mysteries this genre can pose, though they're the most common type.) I'd enthusiastically recommend it for mystery fans --"two thumbs up!"


message 48: by Joy H., Group Founder (last edited Mar 25, 2010 08:24AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Werner wrote: "... I wanted to mention a new (to me) writer we haven't cited above, though she's been mentioned, by various pen names, on other threads: Elizabeth Peters, author of the Amelia Peabody series. Yesterday, I finished the series opener, Crocodile On the Sandbank, which I've reviewed here on Goodreads; I gave it 5 stars. ..."

Werner, I've put Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters on my "keep-in-mind" shelf. Thank you for the recommendation and for the informative posts on this book.


message 49: by Werner (new)

Werner You're welcome, Joy! If you ever do read it, I think you'll like it --it has a pretty straightforward, linear plot without excessive convolutions, and you've mentioned that you like that in fiction.


message 50: by Joy H., Group Founder (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 16697 comments Werner, it sounds better and better as you describe it! Thanks again. :)


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