9 Mystery and Thriller Books to Get You Hooked on the Rest of the Series

While there’s a lot to be said for digging into the intricacies of a good series – the overlapping storylines, the ongoing plot threads, the multi-arc character development – it can sometimes be difficult to find a good jumping-on point. This is particularly true for long-running series. Fortunately, there are several series structured to give you the opportunity to dive in wherever you’d like, and as a matter of fact, we have a few in mind. The novels below are all part of often much larger series, but nonetheless stand up well on their own. And while they can certainly be read as one-offs, there’s a pretty good chance one (or several) might become your new literary obsession.

The cover of the book Double TakeDouble Take

Catherine Coulter

Part of Catherine Coulter’s FBI Thrillers series, Double Take sees husband-and-wife FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock caught up in a pair of seemingly disparate cases: One involving the attempted murder of a dead psychic’s wife and the other the missing wife of a Virginia sheriff. These cases, and the threads that connect them, pull Savich and Sherlock deep into a world of psychic visions, communications with the dead, and dangerous connections.

 

The cover of the book The Cold DishThe Cold Dish

Craig Johnson

With “Longmire” heading into its sixth and final season on Netflix, now is as good a time as any to dig into the source material. The Cold Dish introduces fans to Walt Longmire, a widower and dedicated sheriff investigating the murder of a young man who two years prior had been involved in the rape of a local Cheyenne girl.

 

The cover of the book Royal FlushRoyal Flush

Rhys Bowen

The third entry in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness Mystery series is an excellent spot to dive into the world of Lady Georgiana, a clever amateur sleuth and member of the British Royal Family. Royal Flush sees the aristocratic detective working at the behest of the Queen Mary to save the Prince of Wales from two particularly determined, if very different, hunters.

 

The cover of the book MysteriesMysteries

Knut Hamsun

While not technically part of a series, Mysteries is, in many ways, a perfect introduction and distillation of the complex themes – man’s relationship to the natural world, biblical allegories, etc. – that served as a common thread throughout the celebrated works of Nobel Laureate Knut Hamsun. Mysteries centers on Christ-like stranger who suddenly appears in a small Norwegian town, but is perhaps more sinister than he initially seems.

 

The cover of the book MysteryMystery

Peter Straub

Part of Peter Straub’s loosely connected Blue Rose Trilogy, Mystery nonetheless stands well on its own. The novel follows Toma Pasmore, a young boy who survives a near fatal accident, and an elderly man named Lamont von Heilitz, a once-celebrated detective. The two are drawn together to investigate an unsolved murder with implications far darker than either could anticipate.

 

The cover of the book Mr. Churchill's SecretaryMr. Churchill’s Secretary

Susan Elia MacNeal

Set amid the air-raid sirens and constant threat of bombings of 1940’s London, Maggie Hope, despite graduating at the top of her class, finds herself as a typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Fortunately, her remarkable gift for code-breaking and unparalleled intellect will place her front and center of a murderous plot aimed at newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

 

The cover of the book The Queen's AccompliceThe Queen’s Accomplice

Susan Elia MacNeal

Yes, we’ve got two Maggie Hope mysteries on this list; that’s just how much we love her. You can begin the Maggie Hope series with the above, or jump right into the thick of it with this one. The Queen’s Accomplice sees resourceful code-breaker and spy Maggie Hope dueling with a serial killer in the Blitz-weary London of 1942. A killer has been systematically attacking the women serving as spies and saboteurs of MI-5 in eerie recreations of the crimes of Jack The Ripper. At first assigned to find the murderer, Maggie soon finds herself squarely in the killer’s sights.

 

The cover of the book Murder in the Secret GardenMurder in the Secret Garden

Ellery Adams

In this third title in the A Book Retreat Mystery series, hotel manager and amateur detective Jane Steward is drawn into a murder mystery at her book-themed resort, Storyton Hall. When a member of an herbalist society is found dead in Storyton’s Secret Garden-themed garden, it’s up to Steward to figure out which of the society’s members committed the murder.

 

The cover of the book The Doll's HouseThe Doll’s House

M. J. Arlidge

With The Doll’s House, troubled detective Helen Grace finds herself on the trail of a calculating and very deadly serial killer. The body of a woman is found buried on a secluded beach. The kicker? The woman has been dead for years but no one even so much reported her missing. After all, the woman continues to send text messages to her family. With that, Grace is drawn into an intricate world of a deadly criminal mastermind and time is running short for the killer’s next victim.

They Make it in the End: 5 Fictional Tales of Sweet, Satisfying Escape

Because, sometimes, you need to know before you start. Spoilers be darned.

Escape

Image © Shutterstock

Women and girls held captive by monstrous men is a theme returned to by writers again and again, perhaps because it is echoed in real-life headlines. In these books, at least, the captives ultimately free themselves, and their captors get their comeuppance, whether at the hands of the authorities, or, even more satisfying, the hands of their victims. For stories of abuse and escape, check out these novels and memoirs.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Fourteen-year-old Turtle eats raw eggs for breakfast, is handy with a gun and knife, and has the sort of wilderness survival skills that could win her her own reality TV show. She also has a paranoid, sexually and emotionally abusive father who, despite letting Turtle attend school and socialize (a bit) with other kids, has all but made her his hostage since her mother died when she was six. In Gabriel Tallent’s new novel, My Absolute Darling, Turtle’s existence is just tolerable enough that she doesn’t even question it – until she meets (and rescues) a boy, with whom she falls in love. The question then is how Turtle can rescue herself.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is sweet, scary-smart, funny, and voluptuous – assets which do not escape the malign eye of her mother’s creepy boyfriend. In this tender and bittersweet novel Eleanor tries to navigate the pangs of first love while hiding the truth of what’s going on at home from the new boy in her life. Ultimately, Eleanor has to decide at what price she can fight for her freedom to feel safe in her own home, and Park comes to understand that truly loving someone sometimes means letting them go.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Told cleverly from the point of view of five-year-old Jack, this ingenious novel asks the question: what if your entire world consisted of a small, windowless room? What would you do to escape? And what would you think of the real world once you got out? Jack’s mother suffers abuse at the hands of her kidnapper, who is Jack’s father, for years, but when he comes after Jack, she makes a bold plan to win their freedom. Life outside their room is far more exciting, colorful, and confusing than anything Jack has known, and in the end he, and his mother, come to a new understanding of the meaning of home.

The Never List by Koethi Zan

Spookily similar to the real-life case of the three women held captive by Ariel Castro in Cleveland, this novel traces the life-altering consequences of two teenager friends’ bad decision to accept a ride from the wrong person. The girls are taken captive and held in a basement for years before one finally manages to escape, while the other doesn’t make it out. Ten years later, the survivor is living under a new name, but with old guilt and shame about what happened, why she lived, and why her friend was left behind.

My Abandonment by Peter Rock

This novel offers the same premise as My Absolute Darling – a father and daughter living mostly by their wits in semi-isolation. But in Rock’s novel, which was based on a true story, the father is far less malevolent, and the duo lives apparently contentedly until they are discovered one day and their world is torn apart. Soon, though, questions arise as to just how well cared for the daughter actually was, and if the man she’s called her father is actually related to her at all. Rock is more concerned with questions about wilderness and civilization, and what constitutes a good, or at least wholesome, life, than scary stories about bad men in the woods, but his novel is haunting nonetheless.

 

Paperback Thrills: 16 Best Thrillers of the Last 100 Years

by Keith Rice, appearing first on Signature Reads

Thrillers

The perfect thriller is a difficult beast – a complex mix of pacing, plotting, and tension all doing a high-wire act to keep readers on the edge of their seats and glued to the page. The thriller is also one of the literary world’s broader genres ranging from intricacies of espionage to the supernatural, tension-filled courtrooms to haunted houses, howcatchems and whodunits to grisly murders. The one thing all of these tales have in common? An unparalleled ability to draw readers in for that can’t-put-it-down reading experience. Looking back over the last 100 or so years, we’ve pulled together our list of sixteen of the most essential thrillers. Find a comfy spot and settle in; once you start one of these great reads, odds are you won’t be able to step away until you hit that final page.

Click for the complete list of thrillers.

Big Birthday Week

In light of the sheer number of birthdays this week we will be going with a brief, “what are they best know for” write-up for our beloved authors. This is in no way meant to be a reflection on them or their work. It is only a reflection of this humble blogger, who regrettably only has so much time. Also, I skipped breakfast so I would like to be done in time for lunch.

Hunter S. Thompson (b. July 18, 1937, Louisville, KY; d. February 20,  2005, Woody Creek, CO)

Selfie?“The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” Read more quotes here.

Best Known for: Reporting for Rolling Stone Magazine, inventing “gonzo journalism,” writing Hell’s Angels, The Rum Diary (made into a Johnny Depp movie), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (also made into a Johnny Depp movie), “drugs, alcohol, violence, [and] insanity”

For more on Hunter S. Thompson, click here.

Stephen Coonts (b. July 19, 1946, Buckhannon, WV)

Executive Air“All really great flying adventures begin at dawn.” Find more quotes here.

Best Known for: Being a naval aviator in the Vietnam War, writing military, action, techno-thriller novels and creating the character Jack Grafton

For more information on Mr. Coonts and his books, click here.

 

Petrarch (b. July 20, 1304, Arezzo, Italy; d. July, 19, 1374, Arqua Petrarca, Italy)

Nice leaves“Five enemies of peace inhabit with us – avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride; if these were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.” You can find more quotes here.

Best Known for: Being a Renaissance scholar and poet, beginning the humanist philosophical movement as well as the concept of the “Dark Ages,” writing Canzoniere, Trionfi and Africa

For more information on Petrarch, click here.

 

Cormac McCarthy (b. July 20, 1933, Providence, RI)

The lighting makes you look slightly sinister in spite of the smile.“My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That’s heaven. That’s gold, and anything else is just a waste of time.” More McCarthy quotes here.

Best Known for: Being named Cormac (seriously, how many other Cormacs do you know?), winning the MacArthur Genius Grant, being one of the most respected American novelists of the last 50 years, writing Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses (movie), No Country for Old Men (movie) and The Road (another movie), and… oh yeah, winning a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

For information on Cormac McCarthy and his books you can go to his website, here.

 

Ernest Hemingway (b. July 21, 1899, Oak Park, IL; d. July 2, 1961, Ketchum, ID)

What is he looking at?“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” Read more quotes here.

Best Known for: Fighting in multiple wars, living it up in Paris, going on safari and in general leading a life of adventure and being the model of modern masculinity; he also wrote The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Nobel Prize for Literature for his efforts – not too shabby

For more on Ernest Hemingway, click here.

 

Raymond Chandler (b. July 23, 1888, Chicago, IL; d. March 26, 1959, La Jolla, CA)

Pipes - the most distinguished way to get mouth cancer“I think a man ought to get drunk at least twice a year just on principle, so he won’t let himself get snotty about it.” You can find more quotes here.

Best Known for: Being an oil executive that lost his livelihood during the great depression and had to turn to writing detective stories to make a living, co-authoring several Hollywood screenplays (including the Oscar-nominated Double Indemnity), creating the character Philip Marlowe (later played by Humphrey Bogart), and writing several masterpieces of the hard-boiled detective genre, including The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The Little Sister and The Long Goodbye

For more Chandler information, click here.