My taste in reading is pretty eclectic, but I’ve found my favorite genre is the mystery novel series.
I enjoy mysteries for the puzzles they present. I don’t like gratuitous violence, explosions or even guns. That’s probably why so many of my favorite mystery novel series are British. I also like having a peek at at the similarities and differences of the cultures of the US, parts of Britain and (as you’ll see) Venice.
In a series of novels, an author has a greater opportunity to develop each of the regular characters over time. Therefore, I offer you this list of my favorite mystery novel series—hundreds of novels, over thousand hours of enjoyment.
I’ve just copied and pasted these lists for you without bothering to match their formats. I have put them in order here, with my favorites at the top.
Elizabeth George - Inspector Lynley Mysteries
Many years ago, I read all of the Agatha Christie novels (except Tommy and Tuppence - hated them) and over time I've read all of P.D. James' work. My very favorite current mystery writer is Elizabeth George. I strongly suggest that her Inspector Lynley novels be read in order because the regular characters evolve over time. Thanks, Beth, for introducing me to these.
1988: A Great Deliverance
1989: Payment in Blood
1990: Well-Schooled in Murder
1991: A Suitable Vengeance
1992: For the Sake of Elena
1992: Missing Joseph
1993: Playing for the Ashes
1996: In the Presence of the Enemy
1997: Deception on His Mind
1999: In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner
2001: A Traitor to Memory
2003: A Place of Hiding
2005: With No One as Witness
2006: What Came Before He Shot Her
2008: Careless in Red
2010: This Body of Death
2012: Believing The Lie
2013: Just One Evil Act
2014: A Banquet of Consequences
2018: The Punishment She Deserves
Ann Cleeves - Vera Stanhope Novels
These novels, except for The Glass Room, have been dramatized in the television series Vera on ITV, which stars Brenda Blethyn in the title role. The programme premiered in May 2011. They take place in and around Tynemouth, in the north of England.
The Crow Trap (1999)
Telling Tales (2005)
Hidden Depths (2007)
Silent Voices (2011)
The Glass Room (2012)
Harbour Street (2014)
The Moth Catcher (2015)
The Seagull (2017)
Ann Cleeves - Shetland Island series
More from the author above: In 2013, Red Bones was dramatised by David Kane for BBC television as the first episode of the series Shetland, which stars Douglas Henshall as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez. Episodes broadcast in 2014 were based on Raven Black, Dead Water, and Blue Lightning.
Raven Black (2006); Gold Dagger Award
White Nights (2008)
Red Bones (2009)
Blue Lightning (2010)
Dead Water (2013)
Thin Air (2014)
Too Good To Be True (2016, novella)
Cold Earth (2016)
Donna Leon - Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteries
Another absolutely delightful series! These are set in Venice, Italy. The protagonist is a moral cop in a corrupt society. Lots of character development and depth in these.
Death at La Fenice
Death in a Strange Country
Dressed for Death
Death and Judgement
Quietly in Their Sleep
A noble Radiance
Friends in High Places
A Sea of Troubles
Blood from a Stone
Through a Glass, Darkly
Suffer the Little Children
The Girl of His Dreams
A Question of Belief
The Golden Egg
By Its Cover
Falling in Love
The Waters of Eternal Youth
Michael Connelly - Harry Bosch Novels
Connelly presents fully developed, interesting characters who grow with each novel and his plots continue to entertain. His Harry Bosch novels sometimes overlap with his (the character's half-brother) Mickey Haller novels. While many series seem to become formulaic over time, Connelly continues to improve.
The Black Echo (1992)
The Black Ice (1993)
The Concrete Blonde (1994)
The Last Coyote (1995)
Trunk Music (1997)
Angels Flight (1999)
A Darkness More Than Night (2001)
City Of Bones (2002)
Lost Light (2003)
The Narrows (2004)
The Closers (2005)
Echo Park (2006)
The Overlook (2007)
The Brass Verdict (2008)
Nine Dragons (2009)
The Reversal (2010)
The Fifth Witness (2011) The Drop (2011)
The Black Box (2012)
The Burning Room (2014)
The Wrong Side Of Goodbye (2016)
Two Kinds of Truth (2017)
Michael Connelly - Mickey Haller Novels
The Lincoln Lawyer (2005)
The Brass Verdict (2008)
Nine Dragons (2009)
The Reversal (2010)
The Fifth Witness (2011)
The Gods of Guilt (2013)
The Crossing (2015)
Louise Penny - Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mysteries
Our friend Sally Baker introduced me to this series. It’s set around the life of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force for Quebec. Books in the series have been nominated and received numerous awards.
The first book in the series, Still Life, was released in 2006 and won the New Blood Dagger award, Arthur Ellis Award, the Dilys Award, 2007 Anthony Award, and the Barry Award. All subsequent novels in the series have won major crime-writing awards in three countries. Many have also made the New York Times Best-Seller List, debuting as high as #1.
A Fatal Grace/Dead Cold (same book, different title)
The Cruelest Month
A Rule Against Murder/The Murder Stone (same book, different title),
The Brutal Telling
Bury Your Dead
A Trick of the Light
The Beautiful Mystery
How the Light Gets In
The Long Way Home
The Nature of the Beast
A Great Reconing
Kingdom of the Blind
Scott Turow legal novels
Turow's aren't murder mysteries, but beautifully written legal procedurals. The characters and legal manuvering are all fascinating.
Presumed Innocent (1987)
The Burden of Proof (1990)
Pleading Guilty (1993)
The Laws of Our Fathers (1996)
Personal Injuries (1999)
Reversible Errors (2002)
Testimony (2017) )
Ian Rankin - Inspector Rebus Books
This series of police procedurals takes place over a couple of decades in Scotland. In addition to fine mysteries, we get to meet marvelous characters (all of them flawed - even the villains aren't all bad), and watch many of them evolve over time. In the period covered, technology changes, too, of course. In the early novels, they're dependent upon pay phones and borrowing the use of phones in pubs and other businesses.
Knots and Crosses (1987)
Hide and Seek (1991)
Tooth and Nail (1992)
Strip Jack (1992)
The Black Book (1993)
Mortal Causes (1994)
Let It Bleed (1995)
Black and Blue (1997)
The Hanging Garden (1998)
Dead Souls (1999)
Set in Darkness (2000)
The Falls (2001)
Resurrection Man (2002)
A Question of Blood (2003)
Fleshmarket Alley (2004)
The Naming of the Dead (2006)
Exit Music (2007)
Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012)
Saints of the Shadow Bible (2014)
Even Dogs in the Wild (2016)
Rather Be The Devil (2017)
In A House of Lies (2018)
Other novels by Ian Rankin
Witch Hunt (1993)
Bleeding Hearts (1994)
Blood Hunt (1995)
The Complaints (2009)
The Impossible Dead (2011)
The Flood (1986)
Doors Open (2008)
Peter Robinson - Inspector Banks series
A well-developed cast of characters and original, interesting plots. These are centered in Yorkshire, England - just south of where the Vera Stanhope novels (above) take place.
Gallows View (1987)
A Dedicated Man (1988)
A Necessary End (1989)
The Hanging Valley (1989)
Past Reason Hated (1991)
Wednesday’s Child (1992)
Dry Bones that Dream (1994) (published in the USA as Final Account)
Innocent Graves (1996)
Dead Right (1997) (published in the USA as Blood at the Root)
In a Dry Season (1999)
Cold is the Grave (2000)
The Summer that Never Was (2003) (published in the USA as Close to Home)
Playing with Fire (2004)
Strange Affair (2005)
Piece of My Heart (2006)
Friend of the Devil (2007)
All the Colours of Darkness (2008)
Bad Boy (2010)
Watching the Dark (2012)
Children of the Revolution (2013)
Abattoir Blues (2014) (published in the USA as In the Dark Places)
When the Music’s Over (2016)
Sleeping in the Ground (2017)
"Ellis Peters" (Edith Pargeter) -
The Cadfael Chronicles
I told our friend Sunshine that I was enjoying the series above, and she told me about this series. Brother Cadfael has taken Holy orders only after having experienced life as a soldier in the Crusades. He's an herbalist skilled in observing human nature. It's interesting to have the mysteries set in the 12th century when no one knew about finger prints, DNA, etc, and no one had telephones.
1. A Morbid Taste for Bones (written in 1977, set in 1137)
2. One Corpse Too Many (1979, set in August 1138)
3. Monk’s Hood (1980, set in December 1138)
4. Saint Peter’s Fair (1981, set in July 1139)
5. The Leper of Saint Giles (1981, set in October 1139)
6. The Virgin in the Ice (1982, set in November 1139)
7. The Sanctuary Sparrow (1983, set in the Spring of 1140)
8. The Devil’s Novice (1983, set in September 1140)
9. Dead Man’s Ransom (1984, set in February 1141)
10. The Pilgrim of Hate (1984, set in May 1141)
11. An Excellent Mystery (1985, set in August 1141)
12. The Raven in the Foregate (1986, set in December 1141)
13. The Rose Rent (1986, set in June 1142)
14. The Hermit of Eyton Forest (1988, set in October 1142)
15. The Confession of Brother Haluin (1988, set in December 1142)
16. The Heretic’s Apprentice (1990, set in June 1143)
17. The Potter’s Field (1990, set in August 1143)
18. The Summer of the Danes (1991, set in April 1144)
19. The Holy Thief (1992, set in August 1144)
20. Brother Cadfael’s Penance (1994, set in November 1145)
William Kent Krueger - Cork O’Connor series
Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, Corcoran "Cork" O'Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota. This is another author our friend Beth introduced me to. Real page-turners.
Kate Atkinson - Jackson Brodie Mysteries
After I posted a link to this page on Facebook, our friend and former Sebastopol Library Director Sue Struthers suggested this series. (Sue said some in her book group didn't care for them. Maybe they're not mystery fans.)
Case Histories (2004)
One Good Turn (2006)
When Will There Be Good News? (2008)
Started Early, Took My Dog (2010)
Jefferson Bass - Body Farm Novels
Finding myself almost bookless before a weekend library closure, I randomly grabbed one of Jefferson Bass's Body Farm Novels. Turns out the author's nom de plume is a combination of two names. Dr. Bill Bass is a world-renowned forensic anthropologist, and Jon Jefferson is a writer. Together they've put together some pretty off-beat, entertaining mysteries.
Carved in Bone. William Morrow. 2006.
Flesh and Bone. William Morrow. 2007.
The Devil’s Bones. William Morrow. 2008.
Bones of Betrayal. William Morrow. 2009.
The Bone Thief. William Morrow. 2010.
The Bone Yard. William Morrow. 2011.
The Inquisitor’s Key. William Morrow. May 2012.
Cut to the Bone. William Morrow. September 2013.
M. C. Beaton – Hamish Macbeth Novels
This series is the closest my taste goes towards “cozy” mysteries, which are usually not at all to my liking. Let’s just say they’re a bit light, but still complex enough and well written. Hamish Macbeth is a village bobby in the far north of Scotland and his ambition is to stay that way. His maverick methods, highland intuition, and ways with the village folks solve murders, risking his getting promoted out of his beloved village.
Death of a Gossip (1985)
Death of a Cad (1987)
Death of an Outsider (1988)
Death of a Perfect Wife (1989)
Death of a Hussy (1990)
Death of a Snob (1992 )
Death of a Prankster (1992)
Death of a Glutton (1993)
Death of a Travelling Man (1993)
Death of a Charming Man (1994)
Death of a Nag (1995)
Death of a Macho Man (1996)
Death of a Dentist (1997)
Death of a Scriptwriter (1998)
Death of an Addict (1999)
A Highland Christmas (1999)
Death of a Dustman (2001)
Death of a Celebrity (2002)
Death of a Village (2003)
Death of a Poison Pen (2004)
Death of a Bore (2005)
Death of a Dreamer (2006)
Death of a Maid (2007)
Death of a Gentle Lady (2008)
Death of a Witch (2009)
Death of a Valentine (2010)
Death of a Chimney Sweep (2011)
Death of a Kingfisher (2012)
Death of Yesterday (2013)
Death of a Policeman (2014)
Death of a Liar (2015)
Knock, Knock, You're Dead (2016)
Death of a Nurse (2016)
Death of a Ghost (2017)
Death of an Honest Man (2018)
Comedy crime books (believe it or not!)
Both of the authors below have given me many chuckles and several guffaws.
Donald E. Westlake - John Dortmunder novels
The Hot Rock. 1970.
Bank Shot. 1972.
Jimmy the Kid. 1974.
Nobody’s Perfect. 1977.
Good Behavior. 1985.
Don’t Ask. 1993.
What’s the Worst That Could Happen? 1996.
Bad News. 2001.
The Road to Ruin. 2004.
Watch Your Back! 2005.
What’s So Funny? 2007.
Get Real. 2009.
Lawrence Block - Bernie Rhodenbarr novels
Burglars Can’t Be Choosers (1977)
The Burglar in the Closet (1978)
The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling (1979)
The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza (1980)
The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian (1983)
The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams (1994)
The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart (1995)
The Burglar in the Library (1997)
The Burglar in the Rye (1999)
The Burglar on the Prowl (2004)
The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (2013)