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Looking for a Good Mystery Series?: Updated, One Year Later

Cindy Burnett
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Mystery Series

Need something to read? Pick up the first in a mystery series. 

Recently, for this column’s one-year anniversary, I highlighted my top 10 most-read Page Turners pieces. While I knew several articles would make the list based on the response that they initially received, I was surprised and pleased that my two articles on mystery series both reached the top 10. As a die-hard mystery fan, that genre constitutes a significant portion of what I read, and I love to share my favorites with others. Accordingly, I decided to update this article, including the originals plus some new series that I discovered in the past 12 months.

Finding a fabulous new mystery series is so much fun, especially if there are a number of titles. A unique protagonist or a locale with which I am not very familiar usually catches my attention, but I also enjoy a straight-forward police procedural/private investigator tale. And the great thing about reading a series is that picking my next book is a lot easier – I just move onto the next one.

When I started writing the first mystery series article, I realized that my list of stellar mystery series was quite lengthy, too many for one article. So I divided them into two articles: those set in the United States, in both urban and rural settings and those mysteries set in another country or with historical settings. For this update, I stayed with that format and added some new or new-to-me gems. This article covers the former group.

My favorite contemporary mystery series in an urban American setting:

  • The Harper McClain trilogy by Christi Daugherty – Harper is a crime reporter for the local Savannah, Georgia newspaper who also investigates murders. 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 (Shap), a witty and pragmatic private investigator who frequently finds himself in trouble with the local police and the FBI. Highlight – the infusion of Scandinavian culture and cuisine and Shap’s wit. 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 choose not to investigate. 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.

New additions:

  • The Peter Ash series by Nick Petrie - War veteran Peter Ash suffers from PTSD and takes on cases to keep his post traumatic claustrophobia at bay. Highlight – Petrie’s writing and the unique and clever mysteries. First book – The Drifter.
  • The Lucas Page series by Robert Pobi - Page is a former FBI agent who now teaches astrophysics at Columbia University, and his ability to visualize a crime scene as it originally occurred repeatedly draws him out of retirement. Highlight – Page’s intellect, Pobi’s sense of humor, and the fast-paced storytelling. First book – City of Windows.
  • The Agent Sayer Altair series by Ellison Cooper - FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair works the toughest cases in D.C. Highlight – the believable twists and turns and the well-developed characters. First book – Caged.
  • The Ancestry Detective series by S.C. Perkins – Genealogist Lucy Lancaster solves mysteries filled with history, family lore, and Southern charm. Highlight – Lucy’s profession as a genealogy and the Texas connection. First book – Murder Once Removed. Read a Q&A with the author here and listen to her podcast interview here

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.

New additions:

  • The Virgil Wounded Horse series by David Heska Wanbli Weiden - Virgil Wounded Horse is a hired vigilante on the Rosebud Reservation meting out justice when the legal system fails the reservation’s residents. Highlight – the outstanding sense of place and the insight into Lakota culture. First book – Winter Counts. Listen to his podcast interview here.
  • The Alaska Wild series by Paige Shelton - Novelist Beth Rivers is hiding out in Benedict, Alaska and inserts herself into mysteries that keep popping up around the area. Highlight – the descriptions of Alaska and Shelton’s characters. First book – Thin Ice.

Share your favorite mystery series in the comments or shoot me an email at [email protected]

Conversations from a Page is hosting an As the Page Turns book discussion over Zoom for The Last Flight by Julie Clark on Sept. 24, 11 a.m. and for Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel on Nov. 17 at 11 a.m. (5 or $30 for an annual pass). Find more details here. For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. See Cindy's monthly Buzz Reads column here

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