Thursday, May 24, 2012

Literary Mystery Novelists—A Requested List

We mystery readers are tremendously fortunate to be living in this time. I believe that we’re living in the second Golden Age of the crime novel, and I’ve been known to mention at literary gatherings that many crime fiction writers today are writing works of high quality that can hold their own against most literary novels published currently. Because of this, I’ve had several requests lately from people I know through the academic literary world for a list of such mystery writers. I’ve been running a series of interviews or profiles on these mystery writers whose work ranks with that of literary novelists, and I’ll continue it in the future. But right now, I’d like to furnish that list that has been requested so often.

As with any list such as this, it can’t be comprehensive. There are crime writers I’ve not read yet and some I’ve simply not even heard of yet. I discover new writers every day. There will inevitably be writers whose work I adore who will be left off because my mind blanked out as I typed this list. Because I am a faulty human, this will be nowhere near a complete list, but rather a starting place for people who want to explore the riches of the current crime novel scene. And the riches are such that I will have to split the list in two with the first half here today and the second half posting on Monday.


Rudolfo Anaya--godfather of Chicano lit--his Sonny Baca series brings magic realism to the mystery novel

Lawrence Block—his Matthew Scudder novels, especially

Rhys Bowen—her Molly Murphy historical novels set in turn of the century New York—also, her delightful Her Royal Spyness series

Alafair Burke—James Lee’s daughter—the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree

James Lee Burke—anything he’s written—one of the greats

Rebecca Cantrell—her Hannah Vogel series of historical novels set in pre-war Nazi Germany

John Connolly—his Charlie Parker series

Michael Connolly—his Harry Bosch novels

Lucha Corpi—her Gloria Damasco series and her new Brown Angel series

Robert Crais—his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels offer one of the great hero-pairings out there

Deborah Crombie—her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series—evokes England successfully despite living in Texas

Paul Doiron—his Mike Bowditch series—brings the forests of Maine to life for the reader

Hallie Ephron—her standalone thrillers, Never Tell a Lie and Come and Find Me—I’ve not read her co-written Dr. Peter Zak series

Tess Gerritsen—her Rizzoli and Isles series

Elizabeth George—her Inspector Thomas Lynley series—start with A Great Deliverance

Kathleen George—her Pittsburgh Homicide Division series

Sue Grafton—her Kinsey Milhone alphabet series

Jane Haddam—her Gregor Demarkian series

Carolyn Haines—her standalone thrillers, such as Penumbra and Touched—also her comic Bones series

Thomas Harris—the godfather of the serial killer thriller—Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs

Carl Hiaasen—heartbreakingly comic novels, such as Nature Girl and Flush

Patricia Highsmith—died in 1995, but her books are still some of the best psychological thrillers ever—Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley have been made into films again and again

Tony Hillerman—died in 2008, but still one of the finest mystery novelists out there—begin with The Blessing Way and Dance Hall of the Dead

Declan Hughes—his Ed Loy series starts with The Wrong Kind of Blood

P.D. James—one of the greats—her Adam Dalgliesh series and her Cordelia Gray series both

J.A. Jance—she has three series—my favorites are the two series featuring J.P. Beaumont and Sheriff Joanna Brady

Craig Johnson—his Walt Longmire series about a Montana lawman has become a TV series


  1. I too believe this will be seen as one of the "Golden Ages" of Mysteries.
    I agree with everyone on the list and no list is complete. I would add in the first part of the alphabet: Carolyn Hart, past Pulitzer Prize nominee, Barbara Hambly of a free man of color series, James Elroy and Tana French. That's off the cuff. I'm looking forward to the rest of the list.

  2. Thanks, Reine, for dropping by and also for sharing it on Facebook. You're a dear!

  3. Oh, Warren, you're right. I knew I'd miss some of my favorites--Carolyn Hart, Barbara Hambly, and Jame Elroy! I'm not familiar with Tana French. thanks for the tip.

  4. Tana is not as established at the others but she's a rising star in my opinion.

  5. You've mentioned some of my favorites and you've given me some new people to look for. I can't wait until Monday for the rest of your list! Thanks!

  6. Printing out your list. I'd add Manuel Ramos who has written the Luis Montez mysteries: The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz, Brown on Brown, King of the Chicanos, Blues for the Buffalo, and Mooney's Road to Hell.

  7. Warren, I will have to try Tana French now.

    I'm sorry to be so late replying, but with the storms we lost our internet connection yesterday until just now.

  8. Deb, so glad to see you here! I'd hoped to do it in one post, but it was just too long. Lots of wonderful writers out there, and as you see, I left off people whose work I know and love, as well as those I don't know who others say are wonderful.

  9. AlvaradoFrazier, you are so right! I knew I'd be leaving out people I didn't want to leave out. I love Manuel's work, and he's a friend. Thanks so much! I would add Joy Castro, who's coming out with a thriller this fall since she's such a great writer, but I haven't seen the book yet. I'm sure it will end up on the list once it's out, though.

  10. Great list, Linda. Some of my favorites. Agree about Tana French. I would also add Kenneth Abel, not as well known but a superb mystery writer.

  11. Thanks for stopping by, Janet! I'm not familiar with Kenneth Abel. I can see I'll have to add him to Tana French as someone I must try to read. Thanks!

  12. I just finished Every Last Secret this morning and it was excellent. I'm hoping this is just the first of a series because I'd love to know what happens to Brian. Thanks for the list, too. Many of my favorite authors are on it, but some new ones I'll try. Thank you for a great read! I'll look forward to more from you.

  13. Judie, thanks so much for stopping by! I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed Every Last Secret. The sequel, Every Broken Trust, is with my publishers right now. I expect my edit letter next week, and then after a few weeks for revisions, it will head out for copyedits. It will be published next April. And you'll learn right in the beginning what happens to Brian.