It's a Mystery 4/30/2013

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A recent article in Library Journal discussed trends in the circulation of library materials.  65% of items circulated are from the Fiction area, with Mysteries being the top circulating subgenre within Fiction.  The popularity of mysteries is no surprise to those of us who read them.  Readers continue to be drawn to the varied types of mysteries being published today.

Here are some of the most popular subgenres of Mystery, along with several series and debut titles that represent each category.  Of course, there can be a lot of overlapping of genres.  Below you will find examples of International Police Procedurals and Historical Forensic mysteries.

International Crime Fiction - the global crime scene continues to thrive, with new translations coming in from countries all over the world.  Besides the popular Nordic Noir locations, look for titles from the Caribbean, South Africa, Kenya, Japan and Germany.

  • Already drawing rave reviews is the debut mystery Hour of the Red God (5/2013) by Richard Crompton, a former BBC journalist.  He lives in Nairobi, Kenya, where the story is set during the unrest of the 2007 elections.  His protagonist is Nairobi Police Detective Mollel, a former Maasai warrior, whose investigation into the murder of a prostitue steps on the toes of the rich and powerful.
  • From Denmark comes the American debut of The Hanging (6/2013) by the brother/sister team of Lotte and Soren Hammer.  They introduce us to Det. Konrad Simonsen and his murder squad as they investigate a mass hanging in Copenhagen.
  • Widely followed international writer Jo Nesbo of Oslo has created and developed the popular character Harry Hole.  This Oslo police detective has been described as an antihero and one of the many maverick, intuitive detectives who fight the system almost as often as they fight crime.  As sometimes happens when books are translated for the American market, they are not published in the series order.  The titles in this series are The Bat (#1 - coming out in July, 2013), The Redbreast (#2 - 2008), Nemesis (#3 - 2009), The Devil's Star (#4 - 2010), The Redeemer (#5 - coming out in May, 2013), The Snowman (#6 - 2011), The Leopard (#7 - 2011) and Phantom (#8 - 2012).

Law and Order - Police procedurals remain the highest circulating category of the mystery subgenres.

  • A new series by former crime reporter David Mark has caught the attention of a lot of mystery readers at WPPL.  The protagonist, a highly intelligent, sensitive, gentle giant, is Aector (Scottish spelling of Hector) McAvoy, a detective sergeant in Hull, East Yorkshire, England.  Look for The Dark Winter (2012) and Original Skin (5/2013).
  • Another popular series is by author Kathleen George.  She describes her character, Richard Christie, a homicide detective in Pittsburgh, as "human, flawed, contradictory, and thoughtful."  The titles include Taken (2001), Fallen (2004), Afterimage (2007), The Odds (2009), Hideout (2011), and Simple (2012).
  • On the lighter side is the John Ceepak/Danny Boyle series by Chris Grabenstein.  Set in the fictional resort town of Sea Haven, NJ, the atmosphere is usually festive, but the crimes are very real.  Ceepak is an Iraqi war veteran from Ohio who lives by the Code, while Boyle is a young, easy-going officer who grew up in Sea Haven.  The titles, based on amusement park rides and activities, are Tilt-a-Whirl (2005), Mad Mouse (2006), Whack-a-Mole (2007), Hell Hole (2008), Mind Scrambler (2009), Rolling Thunder (2010), Fun House (2012), and Free Fall (5/2013).

Forensics - The popularity of this category is often attributed to the "CSI" effect, based on the TV shows of the same name.  These mysteries feature police officers and scientists who are skilled in areas of forensics such as psychiatry, psychology, pathology, anthropology, and archaeology.  Also included are medical examiners and coroners.

  • Author Robin Burcell has written a series featuring Sydney Fitzpatrick, a forensic artist for the FBI in San Francisco.  Titles in this series are Face of a Killer (2008), The Bone Chamber (2009), The Dark Hour (2012) and The Black List (2012).
  • Elly Griffiths has set her series about forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway in the saltmarsh area of Norfolk, England.  Her titles are The Crossing Places (2009), The Janus Stone (2010), The House at Sea's End (2011), A Room Full of Bones (2012), and A Dying Fall (2013).
  • Characters Harriett Westerman, mistress of Caveley Park Manor, and anatomist Gabriel Crowther take center stage in Imogen Robertson's historical series set in 1780s England.  The first title is Instruments of Darkness (2011), followed by Anatomy of Murder (2012), Island of Bones (2012), and Circle of Shadows (6/2013).

Historical Mysteries - from ancient Egypt to the post-world war era, there is a niche for every historical mystery reader.

  • A debut entry into historical mysteries is A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins.  Set in 17th Century Restoration London, at the time of the Great Plague, it is the story of chambermaid Lucy Campion and her involvement in helping to solve the murder of another servant.  On a personal note, I enjoyed chatting with this author between sessions at the Bouchercon Mystery Convention last October.  She was quietly, but proudly promoting her first published novel.
  • Another extremely popular debut mystery this year is The Midwife's Tale.  The author, Samuel Thomas, lives in Shaker Heights and teaches at University School.  His story, about midwife Bridget Hodgson, is set in 1644 during the English Civil War.  Bridget is determined to prove the innocence of her friend who is accused of poisoning her husband, while also protecting the patients she serves.

Next time I'll talk again about Cozies, a hugely popular Mystery subgenre.  Hope you enjoy some of these series and new releases mentioned above.

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