Detective Novels - Reviews and Recommendations......

daniel_b
daniel_b Posts: 11,620
edited January 2018 in The cake stop
Afternoon all,

I'm a keen reader, detective novels especially.

Will put up what I like, why I like it, and then see if anyone who also likes detective novels might have some suggestions.

Authors I like:

Lee Child - most of his Jack Reacher books are superb, though more recently it does feel like he is writing them with a film in mind - have never brought myself to be able to watch little Tom in one of the films, and likely never will.

Donna Leon - Brunetti myseteries - set in Venice.
Fairly gentle books, although some of the murders can be quite bloody - wonderful writing that describes the city and the architecture that makes me feel like I am there, despite having never visited in person.
Quite a prolific writer, much like Child, so no shortage of books.
Never had a dud, always a guaranteed good read for me.

Colin Dexter - Morse: Great author imho, sadly no longer with us - unfortunately only a dozen or so Morse books were written - love the TV version, and Endeavour, and Lewis was ok, but not quite in the same league.

Andrea Camilleri - Montalbano - set in Sicily:
The books that generated the TV series, much as in Morse, far more TV episodes than their are books, but what there are well written, and critically well translated. Really gives you a feel for the place, people, food, and surroundings - pretty immersive.

Dick Francis\Felix Francis - Set on racecourses generally to some degree:
Always loved these books, a good solid dependable read, don't recall a dud, some are better than others though - Proof, and Straight being two highlights - Felix picked up the baton, and is still turning out decent reading material.

Michelle Giuttari - Zen - set in Rome:
The author is no longer with us, but these are wonderfull written, rich and embroidered stories, with plenty of details and you get to know the characters really well. They did bring this to the TV for a 3 part series on the BBC which I personally loved, and I believe had good ratings, but for some reason they cancelled it :-(
Only half a dozen books written in the series IIRC.

Conor Fitzgerald - Alec Blume:
The first two I found awesome, the 3rd one (Namesake) was frankly terrible - not sure if he was being pushed to get something out by his publishers, but it was a drag to finish, but finish it I did.

K.O Dahl - Set in Norway
Only 4 books have been translated so far, the first one was the best, the latter 3 for me did not quite make the grade, but still very readable.

Henning Mankell - Wallander - set in Sweden:
Great writer, and very well translated. Again for me captures the country, people and surroundings and transports me there.

David Hewson - Now this chap is probably my favourite, and has been for sometime:

4 Strands to his writing as I see it.

Nic Costa - set in Italy - Rome to be precise - several books in this series.
Spin off books from the above, ie one about the person who conducts autopsies etc, still very good.
Standalone books

Pieter Vos - set in Amsterdam - more gritty and probably if I am being honest better written than the Nic Costa series above - only 3 released so far I think.

You remember the Scandinavian series The Killing, and II and III - well they made a back to front request, and asked this chap to write a book from the screenplay for all 3 I think - which he did, and even having seen the series first, and read the book latterly, they are amazing - the first one is a beast, at something like 700 pages, but a total page turner, love it.

I looked around a while back, and saw some good reviews for an author called Stephen Leather, whose first book in the series was called Hard Landing, but wow, it was terribly written, no getting to know the character in anyway, it was shocking - didn't even make the end of it.

Anyone have any other recommendations?

I'm about to try a Chris Carter book (Him of X-Files fame I think?) and also Mark Billingham I have heard good things about.
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Comments

  • meursault
    meursault Posts: 1,433
    Thanks for this, I'm learning Italian so quite fancy a go at those books in Italian.

    Jim thompson

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thompson_(writer)

    Hard Boiled noir style fiction. Has had a few converted into film.

    In the same vein

    Dashiell Hammett
    Raymond Chandler
    Horace McCoy

    Also this is a good tool

    http://www.literature-map.com/

    Put your author in, and it finds similar.
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  • Tashman
    Tashman Posts: 3,406
    2 suggestions of the top of my head

    James Paterson - Fairly easy reading although he's become a writing factory these days. The Alex Cross novels are a firm favourite.

    Peter James - the "Dead" Roy Grace series especially. Based in and around Brighton (the area I live so has a local appeal) but also very well written and the Character of Roy Grace is a firm favourite of mine who develops throughout the series. Can be read independantly of each other but there are background threads that develop over time too
  • + 1 for the Roy Grace series although I accept living close to the locations offers an additional interest that not all will benefit from. A couple of the books also tour as theatre plays too.
    I find Peter James offers well researched, well structured books that encourage you to read the next chapter then the next book.
    Hopefully one day they will be the source for a tv series. They’d be ideal.
  • voodooman
    voodooman Posts: 183
    Tony Hillerman and the Jim Chee series set in Navaho nation.

    Peter Temple - acerbic Aussie lawyer and PI novels about Jack Irish. Quite dark and very funny.

    Michael Dibdin - Aurelio Zen novels set in Italy.

    Have read all of the above and would recommend.
  • graeme_s-2
    graeme_s-2 Posts: 3,382
    I like Lee Childs - my other two favourites are Michael Connelly (his Harry Bosch books especially, but also his others) and Robert Crais. Can also recommend Terry Hayes’ I Am Pilgrim, which is more of spy thriller.
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 40,993
    Another fan of the Peter James novels here, they have a lot more procedural detail than most and you can tell he has done his research. I'm starting to get bored of the Reacher books as they're a bit samey and certainly have a problem with Cruise portraying him in the films when one of the premises of the stories is his physical size.

    Another to consider would be the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling).
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 40,993
    Graeme_S wrote:
    I like Lee Childs - my other two favourites are Michael Connelly (his Harry Bosch books especially, but also his others) and Robert Crais. Can also recommend Terry Hayes’ I Am Pilgrim, which is more of spy thriller.

    I Am Pilgrim is a great book.
  • graeme_s-2
    graeme_s-2 Posts: 3,382
    Pross wrote:
    Another to consider would be the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling).
    Yep - enjoyed these too
  • seanoconn
    seanoconn Posts: 11,479
    I do enjoy a Scandi noir and I'd certainly recommend Camilla Lackberg if your looking for a good detective series.

    +1 for the anti tiny Tom playing Jack Reacher. Ridiculous choice but I guess money talks. There won't be another film for the foreseeable future as the last performed poorly.
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  • Zendog1
    Zendog1 Posts: 816
    I'm currently reading my way through the Peter Robinson books - now on 23.
    Not the best writer technically but the plotting is good. Worth a try.

    Hated the TV series!
  • Phillip Kerr
    David downing
    Martin Cruz Smith

    All excellent writers.
  • hommelbier
    hommelbier Posts: 1,555
    Daniel B wrote:

    Donna Leon - Brunetti myseteries - set in Venice.
    Fairly gentle books, although some of the murders can be quite bloody - wonderful writing that describes the city and the architecture that makes me feel like I am there, despite having never visited in person.
    Quite a prolific writer, much like Child, so no shortage of books.
    Never had a dud, always a guaranteed good read for me.

    Interesting that although her books have been translated into many other languages, she has insisted that they are not translated into Italian.

    Quiet old fashioned now but I always enjoyed John D Macdonald's books about Travis McGee - set in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Also Robert B Parker's Jesse Stone novels - unfortunately he died after only writing a few of them.
  • FatTed
    FatTed Posts: 1,205
    Di Helen Grace
    DC Max Wolfe
  • mr_goo
    mr_goo Posts: 3,770
    Phillip Kerr
    David downing
    Martin Cruz Smith

    All excellent writers.

    +1 Phillip Kerr. - The Bernie Gunther novels are excellent. Detective series set in Nazi Germany.

    Try.

    CJ Sansom - Shardlake detective series set in Henry 8's Tudor England.
    &
    SJ Parris - Giordano Bruno set in Elizabethan England.

    Both series are very well written without getting bogged down by history. Although historical fact and way of life is brilliantly woven into the stories.
    Always be yourself, unless you can be Aaron Rodgers....Then always be Aaron Rodgers.
  • Tashman
    Tashman Posts: 3,406
    Arthur Conan-Doyle too. Loved the Sherlock Holmes stories when I read them many moons ago. I may just have to re-read them again
  • daniel_b
    daniel_b Posts: 11,620
    Cheers chaps,

    didn't expect this many replies :-)

    Liking the author map thing, looks like it could be very useful :-)
    hommelbier wrote:
    Daniel B wrote:

    Donna Leon - Brunetti myseteries - set in Venice.
    Fairly gentle books, although some of the murders can be quite bloody - wonderful writing that describes the city and the architecture that makes me feel like I am there, despite having never visited in person.
    Quite a prolific writer, much like Child, so no shortage of books.
    Never had a dud, always a guaranteed good read for me.

    Interesting that although her books have been translated into many other languages, she has insisted that they are not translated into Italian.

    Quiet old fashioned now but I always enjoyed John D Macdonald's books about Travis McGee - set in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Also Robert B Parker's Jesse Stone novels - unfortunately he died after only writing a few of them.

    Intriguing! Did not know that, how fairly bizarre. I did see a interview with her at some book fair or some such, and she seems like quite a character and incredibly articulate. I do know that they turned some of her books into a German tv series, and she ridiculed it in the interview I saw - not remotely impressed.

    Thankyou for all the other suggestions, I will investigate in more depth at the weekend, when in theory I have some time :?
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  • Really enjoyed reading some James Ellroy over the past year (LA Confidential etc). Not really whodunnits as such, more like complex stories involving corrupt cops and the seedy side of 1940s USA. Bit weird and grotesque in parts but the dialogue is direct and punchy.
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  • mr_goo
    mr_goo Posts: 3,770
    If you're into Scandi Crime then Jo Nesbo is certainly up there with the best, with his Harry Hole novels.
    Some of them work as stand alone, but there is an ongoing story to link a few together.
    Always be yourself, unless you can be Aaron Rodgers....Then always be Aaron Rodgers.
  • harry-s
    harry-s Posts: 295
    Try Wilkie Collins's "Moonstone", said to be the very first detective novel.
    I remember enjoying it a lot.
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    seanoconn wrote:
    I do enjoy a Scandi noir and I'd certainly recommend Camilla Lackberg if your looking for a good detective series.

    Seriously?! I do like a bit of Scandi Noir but I drew the line at Camilla Lackberg. It's more Scandi Chic Noir Lit than anything. Basically, you get a load of women sat round a table talking about being pregnant, wanting to be pregnant, not being able to be pregnant or how difficult it is having been pregnant and now having small children. And then a few people get axed in the head, there is some detective work and then more chat about being pregnant. I get angry reading them. I've been to the main place she sets those books (Fjallbacka) - a lovely little fishing village where probably no-one has ever been murdered but she can be forgiven that!

    And she's better looking than Jo Nesbo.

    Ian Rankin is always enjoyable. Raymond Chandler and Simenon are good for period atmosphere. Henning Mankell is a bit of a class above the other Scandi Noir writers but his best stuff is often those without murders - eg Italian Shoes and Depths.

    But best approach for finding new ones is buy them at random from charity shops.
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  • Recently become a big fan of Mick Herron's series of books about Jackson Lamb. They're somewhere between crime and spy novels, but wonderful writing.

    A bit more towards the spy novel genre are Jeremy Duns' Paul Dark books. Also great reads, very evocative.
  • mr_goo
    mr_goo Posts: 3,770
    Rolf F wrote:
    seanoconn wrote:
    I do enjoy a Scandi noir and I'd certainly recommend Camilla Lackberg if your looking for a good detective series.

    Seriously?! I do like a bit of Scandi Noir but I drew the line at Camilla Lackberg. It's more Scandi Chic Noir Lit than anything. Basically, you get a load of women sat round a table talking about being pregnant, wanting to be pregnant, not being able to be pregnant or how difficult it is having been pregnant and now having small children. And then a few people get axed in the head, there is some detective work and then more chat about being pregnant. I get angry reading them. I've been to the main place she sets those books (Fjallbacka) - a lovely little fishing village where probably no-one has ever been murdered but she can be forgiven that!

    And she's better looking than Jo Nesbo.

    Ian Rankin is always enjoyable. Raymond Chandler and Simenon are good for period atmosphere. Henning Mankell is a bit of a class above the other Scandi Noir writers but his best stuff is often those without murders - eg Italian Shoes and Depths.

    But best approach for finding new ones is buy them at random from charity shops.


    Well I'm glad you said that about Camilla Lackberg. It's more about dealing with the pressures of being a 21st century working woman, relationships with men, women and familly than actually doing any police work. I persevered with one book but never again.
    Always be yourself, unless you can be Aaron Rodgers....Then always be Aaron Rodgers.
  • vimfuego
    vimfuego Posts: 1,783
    I've read a lot of Michael Connelly - thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Bosch stuff (good series on Amazon too).

    A lesser known one I've read quite a bit of too is the Joe Pickett series by CJ Box. He's a game warden in Wyoming that always gets mixed up with funny business (it's like Midsomer out there....), usually at the cost of a state provided truck or two. Slightly different setting to the usual detective novel & I found them very readable. As with most in this genre they can get a bit formulaic, but it's all part of the fun.
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  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    Mr Goo wrote:
    Rolf F wrote:
    seanoconn wrote:
    I do enjoy a Scandi noir and I'd certainly recommend Camilla Lackberg if your looking for a good detective series.

    Seriously?! I do like a bit of Scandi Noir but I drew the line at Camilla Lackberg. It's more Scandi Chic Noir Lit than anything. Basically, you get a load of women sat round a table talking about being pregnant, wanting to be pregnant, not being able to be pregnant or how difficult it is having been pregnant and now having small children. And then a few people get axed in the head, there is some detective work and then more chat about being pregnant. I get angry reading them. I've been to the main place she sets those books (Fjallbacka) - a lovely little fishing village where probably no-one has ever been murdered but she can be forgiven that!

    And she's better looking than Jo Nesbo.

    Ian Rankin is always enjoyable. Raymond Chandler and Simenon are good for period atmosphere. Henning Mankell is a bit of a class above the other Scandi Noir writers but his best stuff is often those without murders - eg Italian Shoes and Depths.

    But best approach for finding new ones is buy them at random from charity shops.


    Well I'm glad you said that about Camilla Lackberg. It's more about dealing with the pressures of being a 21st century working woman, relationships with men, women and familly than actually doing any police work. I persevered with one book but never again.

    An impressively PC translation of my inappropriate description! To be fair, I got suckered into a second one because the first wasn't so blatant but, yes, never again....
    Faster than a tent.......
  • seanoconn
    seanoconn Posts: 11,479
    Mr Goo wrote:
    If you're into Scandi Crime then Jo Nesbo is certainly up there with the best, with his Harry Hole novels.
    Some of them work as stand alone, but there is an ongoing story to link a few together.
    Unfortunately Jo Nesbo's 'The Snowman' didn't translate well to screen, worst film I've seen in a while, shame.
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  • keef66
    keef66 Posts: 13,123
    I read all sorts of stuff. Non-fiction WW2 accounts, cycling, biology of all kinds, anything by Iain Banks, Stephen King or Terry Pratchett.

    In the crime / detective zone I quite enjoy the Rebus books.

    Was given a load of Patricia Cornwell hardbacks which are Silent Witness / Waking the Dead forensic kind of stuff. Occasionally a bit far fetched but quite an easy read and occasionally gruesome.

    A one-off I bought on a whim at the airport but enjoyed enormously was The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair.

    And I just finished Started Early, Took My Dog, which I nicked from the last villa holiday

    Quite enjoyed the first Dragon Tattoo book, but found the second irritatingly padded with irrelevant waffle. The third, and fattest, is still unopened but my son assures me it's the best of the 3 so I might give it a go at some point
  • mr_goo
    mr_goo Posts: 3,770
    seanoconn wrote:
    Mr Goo wrote:
    If you're into Scandi Crime then Jo Nesbo is certainly up there with the best, with his Harry Hole novels.
    Some of them work as stand alone, but there is an ongoing story to link a few together.
    Unfortunately Jo Nesbo's 'The Snowman' didn't translate well to screen, worst film I've seen in a while, shame.

    That's what happens when Hollywood or outsiders get hold of Scandinavian crime writing.
    Look at the Stig Larson trilogy. The original three to film with Noomi Rapace were excellent. Nobody can replicate the miserable atmosphere of Norwegian winters and the seedy underworld of Oslo like the Norwegians. Give it to Hollywood and the sun shines and palm trees line the streets.
    Same goes for the BBC and the Wallander series. The hang dog acting of the actor in the Swedish version is just how I imagined the character from the books. Give it to Kenneth Brannagh and I expect him to burst out into some Shakespearean monologue.
    Some things are best left alone.

    I'm dreading Hollywood getting hold of Headhunters. The 2011 Scandi produced version is a very good book to film production.
    Always be yourself, unless you can be Aaron Rodgers....Then always be Aaron Rodgers.
  • voodooman
    voodooman Posts: 183
    Headhunters... Yes. One of my films of the year from last year (recommended by my dad) and the grimmest shit related scene ever. Also slightly embarrassing as watched it with my 17yr old daughter. Should have realised it'd be pretty graphic.
  • James Lee Burke - most of his novels are set in Louisiana - New Orleans and Cajun country. His books are incredibly evocative and almost "literary" in style but also can be hard-boiled and funny. An absolute genius.
  • ayjaycee
    ayjaycee Posts: 1,277
    I would need to go through my library (both paper and Kindle) to come up with other recommendations but as soon as I read the title to the thread, Elmore Leonard jumped to the front of my mind. I have not (yet) read everything that he wrote (although not far off!) but I haven't had a bad one yet. To start, I would recommend the Raylan Givens series. If you have ever caught the TV series 'Justified'. it was based upon those books and was just fantastic. He actually made his name writing western short stories in his early days and they are not too shoddy either if you're into that sort of thing- '3.10 to Yuma' springs to mind. Google him for a very impressive back catalogue of work including TV and film writing (Jackie Brown and Get Shorty to name a couple). Sadly, he died in 2013 but was pretty productive until near the end.

    I also recently discovered the Hap and Leonard series of books by Joe R Lansdale - again, very good (and kind of similar to Elmore)

    As a slight aside, although Lee Child is good, after reading a few of the Jack Reacher books, I personally started to find them a bit 'samey' and eventually gave up on them.
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