Good morning bookies. Cloudy in West Tennessee today, high in the low 60’s. I hate cold weather.
With Christmas coming I thought I might list my favorite crime series, the ones I absolutely must read when new entries come out. Maybe it will provide inspiration for some of you. Maybe some of you will decide you must avoid these at all costs.
In no particular order:
The Billy Boyle series by James Benn. My review of the 4th entry in this WW2 era crime series is up not at ILAM and I can truthfully say the books just keep getting better. If there is a WW2 buff in your life he/she could not help but love these. The details are all spot on and the writing is first rate.
SPQR by John Maddox Roberts. The ongoing saga of Decius Metellus, good citizen of the Roman Republic, soon to be the Roman Empire, is one of the funniest, most cleverly realized mystery series out there. Lindsey Davis gets a lot more press for her Roman series, and it’s quite good, but Roberts is unbeatable for sheer readability.
Nate Heller by Max Allan Collins. Yes, I know there hasn’t been a new entry in this series since, like, 2001, but MAC promises that more volumes will be forthcoming. For those who don’t know, Nate heller is a PI who treads a very fine line between the good guys and the bad while being directly involved in famous but mysterious cases from the 30’s-60’s, such as the Lindbergh kidnapping and the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Compulsively readable, the early hardbacks are also quite collectible. Look for photos of them on this blog when I get the time.
Harry Bosch by Michael Connelly. The best crime series being printed in English at this moment in time. What more can I tell you?
Elvis Cole/Joe Pike by Robert Crais. A somewhat uneven series. The first 7 entries are very different from the rest. cole was, originally, a Vietnam vet like Harry Bosch, and the books were breezy and fast. Then came L.A. Requiem where the author wanted to step up his game, and did. Most of the time. Later entries range from brilliant to simply adequate, and Joe Pike is now evolving to have a series of his own. Oh, and Elvis has stopped aging, remaining in his mid 30’s or so. I find that highly annoying. But at its best the series is still excellent, so I’ll keep in here for the time being.
Earl Swagger and his son, Bob Lee, aka “Bob the Nailer” by Stephen Hunter. The newest entry, I, Sniper is waiting for me to read and review. I can’t wait. Whether the protagonist is Earl or his son, this series never fails to lead somewhere new and exciting as aging sniper Bob Lee deals with bad guys of every sort and size. Hunter has a sense of the dramatic so often missing from the books of today.
Tana French. After only two books it’s hard to say that French has a series I love, since those two really are only tangentially related to a Dublin police unit that, in real life, doesn’t exist. But the two that she has written, In the Woods and The Likeness are so exceedingly ambitious and so hypnotic, I had to include them. But beware, this is not light reading, getting through them takes a real commitment, so be prepared.
Doc Ford by Randy Wayne White. Probably the second best series going right now, behind only Connelly. For those starting this series at the beginning, be aware that it took RWW 4 or 5 books to finally get the characters down pat, kind of like Crais with Cole/Pike. Book 3 in this series, The Man Who Invented Florida is borderline comedy, very unlike the later books. But any series that features Doc’s running mate, Tomlinson, can only be considered a classic.
Two one-time favorites no longer on this list are James Lee Burke and James W. Hall. JLB is a graciously delightful man who writes the same book over and over again, regardless of the protagonist, but I’ll say this for him: he writes it very well. The first five books in the Dave Robicheaux series were terrific, after that it becomes a question of how many times you want to read the same thing over and over again. Some people have a higher tolerance than me. As for Hall, parts of his later books about gadfly fishing guru and fly-tier par excellence Thorn are utterly brilliant, the first 50 pages of Blackwater Sound rival the best crime writing ever, by anyone. But as with so many great ones Just Jim started becoming preachy and nothing makes me quit a series faster than being preached at. Still, the writing is first rate and you may like someone bashing you over the head with their opinions.