Mystery Recommendations
from Joy Calderwood


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Death On the High C's. Robert Barnard is satirical, some books lighter than others. This light satire, my favorite Barnard,  focuses on opera singers.
The Cat Who Turned On And Off. One of the earliest of Lilian Jackson Braun's beloved cat mysteries. A newsman moves into an endangered antiques community and is moved to help the many engaging characters.
Miss Seeton Draws the Line. Heron Carvic only wrote 5 books; this is the first. Miss Seeton's unconsciously sketched drawings are leads to solving crimes. These few jewels were so funny that two other authors were commissioned to continue the series after her death, with less success.
Primal Fear. William Diehl's powerful original is far richer than the well-known movie. A publicity-hungry defense attorney sets out to save a young client, who seems to have no chance in the world except from his victim’s own flaws.
Because the Night. My intro to James Ellroy knocked me for a loop. Explores the mind of a charismatic madman.
Banker. Dick Francis took a major step up in his writing skills when he fleshed out these characters. A champion racing stallion seems to have a promising future at stud, but for some reason his foals are usually deformed.
Bonecrack. This admirable Dick Francis hero knows quality when he sees it, whether in furniture, horses, or people. A promising apprentice jockey would do better if his rich, psychotic father wasn’t determined to help him.
The Firm. John Grisham's book differs in several ways from the movie. Especially strong on human impact.
Murder On the Iditarod Trail. Sue Henry's award-winning debut brings to life the experience of the grueling Iditarod dog race. Makes you feel even the crispness of the snow and air on your skin.
Sweet Narcissus. M.K. Lorens loosely based this plot on Dylan Thomas and a manuscript of "The Duchess of Malfi". Wonderfully atmospheric, and includes one of the most courageous acting performances I can remember.
Black Money. Ross Macdonald's detective Archer encounters tragedy in the exact sense of the word, like no other mystery series I know. Archer's skin-deep detachment makes the books moving reading. Black Money has a goose-bump ending.
The Family Vault & The Withdrawing Room. Begins Charlotte MacLeod's cozy series about an impoverished Boston artist and a specialist in stolen art.
Night At the Vulcan. My favorite Ngaio Marsh, set in a London theater. Fascinating cast of characters and a highly skilled mystery.
The Broken Promise Land. This sample of Marcia Muller's series about P.I. Sharon McCone, finds her friend and her rock star brother-in-law falling in love. The brother-in-law, like most rock stars, has a past.
The Cater Street Hangman. Anne Perry's heroine Charlotte introduces us to the under-cover life of upper middle class London. Anne Perry allows her characters to live humanly with their shameful secrets -- even the killers.
Gaudy Night. Dorothy L. Sayers remains one of the most literarily accomplished of mystery writers. This is the climax of the 4-book arc which brings warm-blooded life to her characters. Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey is one of the genre’s best-loved characters.
Miss Melville Regrets. Evelyn E. Smith's marvelously charming story about a down-and-out New York gentlewoman who becomes an assassin.
Dead In the Water. This was my introduction to Dana Stabenow's breathtaking heroine, an Alaskan tribe woman turned cop. The opening chapter is a smash hit that doesn't let up thereafter.
Death On a Silver Tray. Rosemary Stevens's award-winning debut with Beau Brummel as detective. Delightful and very funny.
Brat Farrar. One of the most lovable criminals of mystery literature is the hero of Josephine Tey's tale of twins and impersonation.
The Daughter Of Time. Josephine Tey explores the legend of Richard III and the murders of which he was accused.
Death Of a Lake. Arthur W. Upfield drifted around Australia, doing odd jobs and writing about the exotic settings he found. The setting is an essential character in all of his books, this one perhaps most of all. His half-aborigine detective is a one-man war of cultures.
No Dark Place. Joan Wolf proving serious fiction is her true métier. This medieval mystery has one of the best heroes of his type I have ever read.

 

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