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Discovering a Good Mystery Series, Part 2: Updated, One Year Later

Cindy Burnett
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Mystery series

Travel back in time or around the world with these mystery series. 

In August for Page Turners’ one-year anniversary, I wrote about my top 10 most-read pieces for the column. As I mentioned recently when I updated the first mystery series list, I was surprised and happy that my two articles on mystery series were in the top 10. So I decided to update both articles, including the originals plus some adding some new ones that I have stumbled across since. If you missed it, here is the first article

This week, I am updating my list of outstanding mysteries series and am focusing on stories set in foreign locales or with a historical setting. Series that integrate cultural and regional aspects and details especially appeal to me because I feel like I have been transported to another place without ever leaving my home. While we are not able to travel much right now, reading a book set in a different country is also a fantastic way to armchair travel instead.

Historical mysteries provide a similar experience by focusing on an important period or person in history while including an intriguing puzzle that must be solved.

Standout mystery series set in a foreign locale: 

  • The Baby Ganesh series by Vaseem Khan – Vaseem Khan’s delightful and unique series is set in Mumbai and stars retired Inspector Ashwin Chopra and a baby elephant named Ganesh. Khan immerses the reader in modern Mumbai culture and attitudes while creating clever and intriguing mysteries. Highlight – Baby Ganesh and the focus on modern Indian culture. First book – The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra.
  • The Bruno, Chief of Police series by Martin Walker – Bruno is the chief of police in a small fictional town in the Perigord region of France. Walker’s clever murder mysteries paired with a focus on the region’s food, people and culture make this series one of the best. Highlight – the descriptions of the region and its culture. First book – Bruno, Chief of Police.
  • The Corman Reilly series by Dervla McTiernan – Set in Galway, Ireland, McTiernan’s series is part police procedural and part thriller and tackles present day issues such as drug addiction and suicide. Reilly, new to Galway, must prove himself to his fellow detectives while solving crimes that at times seem to intersect too closely with his personal life. Highlight – the setting and the mysteries themselves. First book – The Ruin.
  • The Detective Kubu series by Michael Stanley – Writing duo Michael Stanley’s series set in Botswana chronicles Detective David Bengu’s exploits as he tackles the crimes that arise under his jurisdiction. Nicknamed “Kubu,” which means hippopotamus in Setswana, Bengu seeks to eliminate those individuals threatening Botswana’s stability, mainly diamond smugglers and poachers. Highlight – the descriptions of Botswana and Bengu himself. First book – The Carrion Death.
  • The Commissaire Dupin series by Jean-Luc Bannalec - Set in the Breton region of France, this series stars Commissaire Georges Dupin, an initially unwilling transplant to the Breton region. Unusual and unorthodox, Dupin tackles the cases that come his way as he grows to appreciate the distinctly unique Breton culture and topography. Highlight – the descriptions of Brittany and its residents and cuisine. First book – Death in Brittany.

New additions:

  • The Aaron Falk series by Jane Harper – Federal investigator Aaron Falk returns home to Kiewarra, Australia for the funeral of a childhood friend and is soon to drawn into the friend’s mysterious death. Harper’s pacing and storytelling are superb, and readers will feel like they are in the outback as Falk’s tale unfolds. Jane Harper is one of my favorite authors – she also has two standalones that are fantastic: The Lost Man and The Survivors (out in February 2021). Highlight – the setting and clever mysteries. First book – The Dry.
  • The Darko Dawson series by Kwei Quartey - Set in Ghana, the series focuses on the local culture, cuisine, customs, and everyday issues facing Ghanians today while also tackling clever and original crimes and mysteries that contain some elements that are universal and other aspects that are uniquely relevant to Ghana. Dawson is a likeable protagonist, and I enjoy reading about a country and culture with which I am not very familiar. Highlight – Ghana. First book – The Wife of the Gods.

My favorite mystery series with a historical setting:

  • The Gilded Newport series by Alyssa Maxwell – The various Newport “cottages” built in the late 1890’s occupy center stage in Alyssa Maxwell’s series starring the fictional Emma Cross, second cousin to millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt. Maxwell’s meticulous research shines through in each installment as she details a particular house and its inhabitants while centering a mystery around the house at issue. Highlight – The detailed descriptions of each cottage and its status today. First book – Murder at the Breakers.
  • The Mycroft Holmes and Sherlock series by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Winterhouse  - NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a diehard Sherlock Holmes fan and pens stories about Sherlock and his brother when they were younger (Sherlock is in his late teens). The mysteries are clever, and Abdul-Jabbar stays faithful to Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters and mysteries. Highlight – a young Sherlock. First book – Mycroft Holmes.
  • The Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia MacNeal – Highly educated, American Maggie arrives in London to dispense with a house she inherited just as the Blitz begins. Eager to help the Allies defeat Hitler, she applies for a job and is hired as the newest secretary to Winston Churchill, a job for which she is immensely overqualified. Eventually she becomes a spy for the British, and her exploits take her all over World War 2-era Europe. Highlight – the detailed descriptions of war-torn London. First book – Mr. Churchill’s Secretary.
  • The Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn – Lepidopterist Speedwell and her sidekick Stoker solve creative and unusual mysteries in 1880s London. Intelligent, highly adventurous, and independent, Speedwell challenges the conventions of the Victorian era, and her curiosity and charm make her a unique and highly likeable heroine. Highlight – Speedwell herself and the witty banter between Speedwell and Stoker. First book – A Curious Beginning.
  • The High Society Lady Detective series by Sara Rosett – Houstonian Rosett’s series takes place in 1920s high society England and stars destitute aristocrat Olive Belgrave who stumbles into crime solving when a murder occurs at a house party at which she is attending. Word of her success travels, and Olive finds herself drawn into numerous mysteries and hi-jinx. Highlight – The expertly-detailed 1920s England. First book – Murder at Archly Manor.
  • The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear – After serving as a nurse in World War 1, Maisie Dobbs decides to become a private investigator in London. Patient and intelligent, Maisie uses her skills and intuition to solve the crimes and mysteries that come her way. Highlight – Maisie Dobbs herself. First book – Maisie Dobbs.
  • The Billy Boyle series by James Benn – Billy Boyle makes detective in his South Boston neighborhood days before Pearl Harbor, and with family connections (his uncle is General Dwight D. Eisenhower), Boyle is hired as Eisenhower’s division detective to halt a planned sabotage of an upcoming invasion of Norway. Smartly written, the series follows Billy as he learns to adjust to life as a military officer while feeling continually challenged with new cases. Highlight – the World War 2 stories. First book – Billy Boyle.

New additions:

  • The Lady Georgie series by Rhys Bowen - Lady Georgie, full name Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, is the cousin of King George V of England and 35th in line for the throne. However, as the series opens, she is penniless and has to find a way to make a living in London in 1932. The Queen asks her to spy on someone, and Georgie is unwittingly drawn into a murder. Bowen released her 14th book in this incredibly popular series this year, and Georgie is one of the most entertaining protagonists in the mystery genre. Highlight – Lady Georgie herself. First book – Her Royal Spyness.
  • The Bronte Sisters series by Bella Ellis – Ellis sets this series in the years before the Bronte sisters were novelists themselves. The sisters (and their brother) lived together as adults for a short few years, and this series casts them as detectors (the term detective had not yet been invented) during this time frame. The mysteries are highly entertaining, and the personalities of each sister shine through and hint at their future potential and careers. Highlight – the Bronte family historical details. First book – The Vanishing Bride.

Share your favorites in the comment section!  

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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