Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Mystery of Mysteries

One of the great puzzles in my library life is the divide between mystery readers who prefer British authors and those, including me, who stick closer to home.  Last week I tried a vaguely worded Google search and came away with the impression that British mysteries tend to be more cerebral and less gritty than American.  Also, that no respectable British writer would dilute a mystery with humor, romance or niche market appeal (scrapbook, quilt store, coffee shop, etc.).  I suspect that the entries I read originated across the pond.  Don’t misunderstand me – everyone should read everything and anything.  I just prefer Margret Maron and Julia Keller to Ruth Rendell and Martha Grimes.  This could all change by next month.  I could also develop a liking for pistachio ice cream.
I have recently discovered two new series.  The first, by New Jersey author Dave White, features Jackson Donne.  Donne has left the New Brunswick Police Department and is working as a private detective.  He burned all of his bridges when he left the PD and has enrolled at Rutgers.  The books (When One Man Dies, The Evil that Men Do, Not Even Past, and An Empty Hell) are set in familiar New Jersey locations and readers, especially those who attended Rutgers, will recognize the neighborhoods and restaurants.  It is best to read the books in order - advice I should have followed.  The stories are sufficiently convoluted, the action zips along, and the dialogue is reminiscent of hard-boiled detectives from the past. No words are wasted.  It does take a page or two to understand the punctuation.
The second series, by Janey Mack, is Jersey-like.  In Time’s Up Maisie McGrane has been booted from the Chicago Police Academy and ends up a Traffic Enforcement Agent, a.k.a. meter maid.  She thinks she is a complete disappointment to her large and very vocal family of policemen and attorneys.  Maisie will remind you of a well dressed and accessorized Stephanie Plum.  The meter maid job and uniform are good for laughs until a dead body appears.  Like Ms. Plum, Maisie is being romantically pursued by a policeman and an ex-army ranger with a dangerous and highly questionable career.  The second book, Choked Up, is much darker, steamier, and more violent. The third book will be a make or break for me to continue reading the series.  The important thing is that Maisie remains well dressed and accessorized as she plays both ends against the middle.   
An even greater to puzzle to me, aside from the British/American schism, is people who don’t read any mysteries.  That is a mystery.

-S. Bakos

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This comment is from a longer comment submitted by an old friend, a librarian who escaped from NJ. She states that Sue Grafton has retained her readers because
A) interesting secondary characters
B) suspense maintained throughout the book
C) readers are sometimes anal retentive in their book selection
My friend also states that Sue Grafton must be read in order.

This is only part of the comments she submitted - I am not guilty of censoring, just not sharing what she said about her son. The sweetie I remember is now 25 and, I am sure, no longer finds a diet of ketchup and mustard appealing. When he was two years old we called him the Condiment King!