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Writers' Club of Whittier

Finding Good Mystery Books


IMG_2038How do you find a good mystery?

I raced through all of Sherlock Holmes as a kid, and then, suddenly, I was done. Doyle was dead and I’d read all the Holmes stories he had written. After that, it was the Father Brown stories by G.K. Chesterton. Some time later I went on an Agatha Christie binge. I read her books over lunch in a department store dining room, surrounded by old ladies. It was perfect. Any one of them might have been another Miss Marple, slicing chicken and sipping tea while she considered who might have left Joanna dead in the greenhouse.

But sooner or later every mystery reader must face the same quandary: How do I find the next wonderful book?

The first technique I devised was to walk through the fiction aisles in the Fullerton Public Library looking for authors who took up lots of shelf space on the theory that their books must be very popular if the library had bought so many of them. This method has the advantage that if you like the first book by one of these authors, you know there are more where that came from. This is how I found Susan Wittig Albert and fell in love with Pecan Springs, Texas. Next came Rita Mae Brown and her co-author, Sneaky Pie. I discovered the Sister Frevisse novels of Margaret Fraser this way and made it as far as the William Monk mysteries of Anne Perry before circumstances conspired against my having so much free time in downtown Fullerton.

1. Cozy-Mystery.com

Finally someone — maybe Gore, but probably not — created the Internet, and then the Web and at last Cozy-Mystery.com. Hooray! This site was created by cozy lover Danna Martin. It began with an effort to keep track of her own reading but finally grew into an amazing resource for lovers of light mysteries — not too much sex or too much violence. If that’s your cup of tea, definitely check out Danna’s site.

2. Stop, You’re Killing Me!

Try this site if you’re looking for something stronger than a cuppa. Created by Bonny Brown, it is now managed by Lucinda Surber and Stan Ulrich. It lists all sorts of mystery, crime, thriller, spy, and suspense books. To be clear, “list” just doesn’t cover all they do. They also categorize, review and sometimes even give away books.

3. Goodreads

You keep lists of the books you’ve read, categorized however you choose, rate them, review them, and then Goodreads sends you an email each month announcing new books by genre and by authors you’ve read before. It’s a nice way to make sure you don’t miss the next book in your favorite series. But there’s more. You can browse books by category and read other people’s reviews of them, and Goodreads will give you book recommendations based on your expressed interest in a genre and your ratings of books you’ve read.

4. Amazon

If you look up a book on Amazon, you can see a list of other books bought by people who also bought the book you’re interested in, and you can read user reviews and usually a sample of the book. These can be useful features even if you choose not to buy your book there.

5.  Dorothy-L

For the truly dedicated, I’ve got one more trick up my sleeve. This is an email list named after Dorothy L. Sayers and dedicated completely to the discussion of mysteries. The active posters are a varied and chatty bunch, so it’s a high volume list. If you subscribe, you’re gonna get a lot of mail. Wonderful mail, from readers, writers, agents, publishers, librarians, bloggers, reviewers, bookshop owners, and anyone else interested in the genre. I get the daily digest — a compilation of most of a day’s posts in one long email — and I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get through a single digest without getting excited about at least one possible book. Members discuss new books just out, old books they love, books that have just been made into movies or TV shows, and they announce books they’ve just published or posts they’ve just put up on their blogs. I once made a comment about a book I’d just read and was startled when the author responded, so be warned!

2 thoughts on “Finding Good Mystery Books

  1. Very weird! I left a comment using my cell phone & it didn’t go through. Anyway, I love this post. Very well penned and informative.

    • Thank you, Hong-My. As for your first post not going through, I don’t know what happened to it. It isn’t in the moderation bin.


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