Mystery Wednesday

Dear Reader:

I’m a mystery fan. I am on a kick reading a lot of the Scandinavian authors, but I also like Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Sue Grafton, and Elizabeth George.

I’ve often wondered why books (and tv shows and movies and plays) about people who solve murders are so popular. Is it because they promise cheating death? The deep human fascination with gore? The desire to have someone really smart and capable fix things (like a parent)?

A lot of them are good reads, but not necessarily deep “good” literature… is a work by Agatha Christie a “classic?” A “good” book? They are both formulaic and, generally, very enjoyable – original in their way (as compared to other authors of the time) but not necessarily super original relative to each other. But they are fun and satisfying.

All this is to say that I suppose that mysteries may be my only real “guilty” book pleasure. Don’t get me wrong – I read plenty of junk. I often scan the people magazine and tmz websites (although, truth be told, 80% of the people they cover don’t interest me).

If a personal interest story appears in the New York Times, odds are I’ll read it. Sadly, I don’t tend to read much of the more serious news in-depth (another story about Iraq?) unless it has a natural resource angle or is on a new issue that interests me. So, my taste in websites, news articles, magazines and such can be quite mixed. But not in books. Except for mysteries. I can’t say why, but I like to read and watch them (particularly the many, many British television series based on mystery books).

In preparation for writing this blog, I pulled out the mysteries I have and figured out which I’d read so I could come up with a list of the ones I will read this year.  Apologies in advance – this is not going to be a super meaty blog entry, it is more of a list.  I promise to dig into some of these individual authors and talk more about my experiences reading them in future posts.  Thanks for your patience – this process of inventorying my books and figuring out what I will read this year is really helpful to me.

Some questions for you – why do you think mysteries are so popular?  Do you enjoy them?  Or do you have a different guilty pleasure genre….?  What are you reading these days?  I’d love to hear.

My mysteries:

There are a lot, so I’m just going to list authors, titles, and whether they are on my kindle or hard copy. I’ve read a lot more than I own – from the library and stuff I’ve given away or sold.

What I own and have not read but will read this year:

James Benn
16) Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery K

CJ Box
17) Below zero HC

Agatha Christie
18) Hallowe’en party HC
19) Death comes to an end HC
20) Cat among the pigeons HC
21) What Mrs Migillicuddy saw HC

Ake Edwardson
22) Death Angels HC

Martha Grimes
23) The black cat HC

James Grippando
24) When darkness falls K

Carl Hiasson and Montalban
25) A death in China K

Mary Higgens Clark
26) Second time around HC
27) Silent night HC
28) My gal Sunday HC

Asa Larsson
29) The blood spilt HC

Henning Mankell
30) Sidetracked HC (most of the way through it already)
31) The 5th woman HC
32) Firewall HC

Ngaio Marsh
33) Colour scheme HC

Magdelan Nabb
34) Death of an Englishman HC
35) Death of a Dutchman HC

Jo Nesbo
36) The redbreast K
37) The snowman K

Stefanie Pintoff
38) In the shadow of Gotham K

Ruth Rendell
39) The veiled one HC
40) Wolf to slaughter HC
41) Speaker of mandarin HC
42) Harm done HC

Sjowall and Wahloo
43) The man on the balcony HC

Peter Temple
44) The Truth: A novel K

Johan Theorin
45) The darkest room

Gayle Trent K
46) Murder takes the cake K

Helene Tursten
47) The glass devil

SJ Watson
48) Before I go to sleep: A novel

Whew! That is a long list. But I’m glad I stocked up before I made my buying moratorium.

What I own and have read:

Agatha Christie
The body in the library K
The complete Miss Marple stories HC

Karin Fossum:
He who fears the wolf HC
Don’t look back HC
When the devil holds the candle K
Calling out for you K
The water’s edge K

Elizabeth George
This body of death K

Sue Grafton
U is for undertow K

Asa Larsson
Sun storm K

Stieg Larsson
The girl with the dragon tattoo HC
The girl who played with fire HC
The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest K

Aimee Leduc
Murder in the Marais K

Henning Mankell (all below are in the Wallendar series)
Faceless killers HC
The dogs of Riga K
The white lioness HC
The man who smiled K
One step behind HC

Ngaio Marsh
The nursing home murders HC

Jo Nesbo
The devil’s star K
Nemesis K

Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Last rituals K

Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
Roseanna HC
The man who went up in smoke HC

Vendela Vida
Let the northern lights erase your name HC

Happy reading! Ruby

HC refers to hard copy and K refers to Kindle copy. I number books I will read this year consecutively by when I mention them in my blog.



  1. Mary

    Not to get you in more trouble than you already are, some mystery writers who are not as formulaic and whom you might enjoy are:

    Laura Lippman
    Louise Penny
    Jane Haddam

    My own too-long list is all Kindle now but is equally daunting both in the area of mysteries and fiction. Also have an impressive list of unread non-fiction which I read along side of the fiction or mysteries. I don’t know why mysteries are so compelling, but they are, especially good police procedurals. Good luck to you with your list.

    • Dear Mary: Thank you for writing! Those were all new mystery writers I had not heard of – I looked them up on Amazon and put them on my wish list (for a year from now :-). I appreciate hearing about good new authors – especially female ones.

      I haven’t really chatted with a kindle owner other than Bufo at ILMK – how do you like yours? Do you get a mix of free and full prices books? Do you read other things – blogs, magazines, newspapers on it… Thanks again, happy reading, Ruby

      • Mary

        Ruby, I’ve had a Kindle since the first one came out and my reading on it has evolved over that time, about 3-1/2 years, I think. In the beginning, the most expensive books were usually 9.99 until the Agency model kicked in around April of 2010, I think it was, and that was obviously going to send prices up. At that time I had a pretty long wish list, so before the new prices became a reality, I stocked up on many of the books I wanted and was sorry later that I did not get more. After that, I was way more cautious and was especially thrilled to find where I could list books waiting for a price drop, also books waiting to be Kindleized. Since they notify you if either of those things happen, it freed me up to just let my list ride until I heard from them, and if the price drop is good, I buy it.

        Yes, I do get some free and cheap books but am cautious about those because often the quality isn’t there. Sometimes a publisher will offer the first in a series free, hoping you will like it enough to buy the others, and it often works for them. With unknown authors generally I read samples first. And then last month we had a great sale, the Sunshine Deals which I think expired June 15th. I bought quite a few then. Now there is another sale (900+ books) but so far I’ve only succumbed to one of those.

        Besides books, on my Kindle I read the Chicago Tribune, Slate, New York Times Latest News, and the New Yorker, so it all keeps me busy.

      • Hi Mary: That’s really interesting – I’ve had one for maybe 2 years. I should learn to be more price conscious and you give me a sense of how.

        We have a lot of reading in common – I subscribe to the NYT, New Yorker (which I don’t find as interesting anymore, I think because I gained a lot of internet access in the past few years and have lots of places to get New Yorker-type info and has the writing quality declined?). I read Slate online – it is one of my favorites. Ruby

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