I love romance novels, I really do. But, like many AAR readers, I also read other genres, and my other primary reading love is mysteries. I read both contemporary and historical mysteries, serious and light mysteries, cozies and police procedurals. My primary requirements for mysteries are that they be character driven, with minimal graphic details. I’ve read and enjoyed many mysteries, and mystery series, without a touch of romance for the main character, but my preference is that there be a satisfying romance for the main character. The kiss of death for me is when the main character’s significant other is killed off.

Nearly a year ago I wrote here about some of my favorite “recent” mystery finds, including books by Tasha Alexander, Deborah Crombie, Rhys Bowen, and Erin Hart. I’ve read a lot of mysteries since then. Some have a strong romantic component, while others have none, but my favorites all have interesting main characters. Following are a few of my favorite recent finds.

Several AAR readers suggested that I might like Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries featuring policeman Thomas Pitt and his wife Charlotte. I decided to try the first in the series, The Cater Street Hangman, in audio and was hooked. Ms. Perry does a wonderful job giving the reader a feel for the time. While I listen to a lot of mysteries, I was completely stumped as to the identity of the villain, making many wrong guesses along the way. This is a long series and I’m pacing myself. So far I’ve read the first three, and am getting ready to download the fourth. Thanks to all of you who recommended this series to me; it’s wonderful! I can’t wait to see what happens in future books to Thomas and Charlotte, as well as to other members of Charlotte’s family. How will Charlotte deal with her reduced financial circumstances? Will she continue to investigate cases? I look forward to finding out.

Technically Jane Haddam isn’t a new-to-me author, as her Gregor Demarkian series was recommended to me years ago by several friends. I tried to read the books but they just didn’t hold my interest, so was less than enthused when my mystery book group picked one of the more recent books in the series, Wanting Sheila Dead to read. Much to my surprise, I loved it. Gregor is a former FBI profiler who still gets roped into investigating cases. As this book begins Gregor and his wife Bennis are just back from their honeymoon when he gets involved with two cases, the mysterious goings on at an old woman’s house, and a shooting on the scene of a reality show being filmed in Philadelphia very similar to America’s Next Top Model. The book is told from many different characters’ points of view, which was difficult for me to get used to initially. Based on what I’ve read online Bennis was Gregor’s longtime lover prior to their marriage. She only has a minor role in this book, but it’s clear they have a strong relationship. I recently discovered that this isn’t the first book I’ve read by the author. In the mid-1980s the author received an Edgar Award nomination for the best first mystery under her real name, Orania Papazoglou, for Sweet Savage Death. This is the first in a much shorter series, featuring former romance author Patience McKenna. Although a bit dated now, the Patience books are a lot of fun, and include a satisfying romance for Patience.

Over the past few years one of the breakout mystery  writers has been Louise Penny. Ms. Penny’s lead character Armand Gamache is a Chief Inspector with the Surêté du Québec in contemporary Montreal. In the first book in the series, Still Life, Inspector Gamache and his team make their first visit to Three Pines, a small village south of Montreal. Ms. Penny has introduced a large cast of characters including the residents of Three Pines, Gamache’s team, and members of his family. Armand Gamache is a wonderful character. He’s honorable, intelligent, and is a fantastic mentor to his staff. Gamache is also a loyal family man who adores his beloved wife Reine-Marie. In Trick of the Light, the most recent book in the series, their relationship is described as follows: “Armand Gamache knew he’d had a great deal of luck in his life, but none more than having loved the same woman for thirty-five years. Unless it was the extraordinary stroke of luck that she should also love him.” I’m completely in love with the series and with Inspector Gamache and can hardly wait for the next entry to be released later this month. The mysteries are intriguing, the characters complex, and the setting is vividly described.

Colin Cotterill’s new series featuring Jimm Juree is unlike any I’ve read before. In Killed at the Whim of a Hat Jimm and her family move from an urban area in Thailand to a rural resort in the south of Thailand after her mother sells their home and business and uses the money to buy a failing resort. Jimm goes from being a promising crime reporter in the city to catching fish for their resort – a resort pretty much no one comes to visit. But, of course, since this is a mystery series, Jimm gets involved with a murder and in the course of the investigation, with the interesting local police force. I’ve now read the first two books in the series and can’t wait for the third. While there’s no romance on the horizon for Jimm, the series abounds in interesting characters, social commentary, and a lot of humor. This series is fun!

Finally, I’ve started another post-World War I mystery series. In Dying in the Wool, Frances Brody introduces Kate Shackleton, the lead in this now three-book series. Kate’s husband went missing in World War I and is presumed dead. Still grieving for her husband, Kate’s trying to help other women in similar circumstances. Kate began locating other missing soldiers for women on an amateur basis. As word spread, she was asked to solve other mysteries. In this first book, Kate actually has a chance to go professional with her investigations. Kate’s mother seems determined to find a new husband for Kate; Kate just isn’t ready. I don’t know what the future will bring for Kate in the next two books, but I intend to find out. I listened to the first book in audio and was very happy with Nicola Barber as narrator. I was disappointed to discover that the next two books in the series don’t seem to be available in audio. But, I intend to stick with the series so will be reading the next two in print.

Have you read any of these series? If so, did you like them? And more importantly, do you have any new mystery series to recommend? As for me, I’m debating about starting several highly recommended series: Kathryn Miller Haines’ Rosie Winter’s series set during World War II, Charles Todd’s World War I series featuring nurse Bess Crawford, and Colin Cotterill’s first series set in 1970’s Laos featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun.

– LinnieGayl AAR