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Discovering a Good Mystery Series

Cindy Burnett
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A mystery series is a great way to solve a reading slump.

People frequently ask if I can recommend a good book series. I love to recommend mystery series because the progression of the crime-solving and the possibility of threading earlier crimes and events into later stories work well for series writing. They are also appealing because they provide the opportunity to watch characters develop over time, both personally and professionally. When I pick up a new book in a series I love, it often feels like I am reconnecting with old friends. Moreover, reading a series makes picking your next book to read a lot easier – you just move onto the next one.

Finding a fabulous new mystery series is one of my favorite things to do. A unique protagonist or a locale with which I am not very familiar usually catch my attention, but I also enjoy just a straightforward police procedural/private investigator tale too.  

When I began writing this article, I realized that there are too many series that I love to include all of them in one article. Accordingly, today’s article includes those set in the United States, in both urban and rural settings. Later, I will cover mysteries set elsewhere and those with historical settings. 

My favorite contemporary mystery series in an urban American setting:

  • The Harper McClain series by Christi Daugherty – Harper is a crime reporter for the local Savannah, Georgia newspaper who helps investigate certain murders on which she reports. Highlight – Daugherty’s descriptions of Savannah. First book – The Echo Killing.
  • The Nils Shapiro series by Matt Goldman – Set in Minneapolis, Goldman’s series stars Nils Shapiro, a witty and pragmatic private investigator who frequently finds himself in trouble with the local police and FBI. Highlight – the infusion of Scandinavian culture and cuisine. First book – Gone to Dust.
  • The Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly – Bosch starts out as an LAPD homicide detective, and while he changes jobs several times as the books progress, he continues to investigate murders in and around the Los Angeles area. Highlight – Bosch himself and the quality of Connelly’s writing. First book – The Black Echo.
  • The IQ series by Joe Ide – IQ resides in one of LA’s roughest neighborhoods and takes on cases that the police have not prioritized.  Highlight – a unique protagonist. First book – IQ.
  • The Pete Fernandez series by Alex Segura – An alcoholic and former newspaper reporter, Fernandez makes a living as a private investigator in Miami and trouble finds him wherever he goes. Highlight – the action-packed storylines. First book – Silent City.

Standout contemporary mystery series set in a rural American setting: 

  • The Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box – Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming, and in each book, he is roped into solving two mysteries – one related to his job as game warden and the other that is a ripped-from-the-headlines issue. Highlight – the setting, Pickett, and the mysteries.  First book – Open Season.
  • The Mike Bowditch series by Paul Doiron – Bowditch is a game warden in Maine who is haunted by his past. As the series progresses, Bowditch works to overcome his personal demons and focus on his job as a game warden. Highlight – the descriptions of Maine. First book – The Poacher’s Son.
  • The Sean Stranahan mysteries by Keith McCafferty – Following his relocation to Montana, fly-fishing expert Sean Stranahan unwittingly finds himself drawn into various mysteries. Highlight – the setting. First book – The Royal Wulff Murders.
  • The Highway 59 series by Attica Locke – Darren Matthews is a black Texas Ranger who faces racial and familial obstacles as he investigates crimes in rural East Texas where racial divides are entrenched. Highlight – Locke’s unsparing look at race relations and the East Texas setting.  First book – Bluebird, Bluebird.
  • The Glacier mysteries by Christine Carbo - Set in Glacier National Park, Carbo’s mysteries focus on crimes resulting or benefitting from the park’s treacherous terrain and the harsh elements. Highlight – the descriptions of Glacier National Park. First book – The Wild Inside.

I would love to hear about some of your favorite mystery series.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram or Cindy’s Reading Recs.

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