Light mysteries that aren't cozies

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Light mysteries that aren't cozies

1lesmel
joulukuu 16, 2020, 12:34pm

Hi! I'm looking for recommendations for easy/light mysteries.

1. I abhor cozy mysteries -- no, your average quilter/librarian/caterer is NOT going to solve a murder/kidnapping.
2. I like thrillers/suspense/crime fiction; but...
3. 2020 has done a number on my threshold for violence and moodiness.
4. I'm looking for something between cozy and psycho; and
5. I'd like to steer clear of series if possible:
a. unless it's short, or
b. loosely connected and doesn't require reading everything.

2AnnieMod
joulukuu 17, 2020, 9:32am

The Golden Age classics maybe? They are clean and they tend to be less violent. And while the technology has dated, a lot of them are still very readable.

Cozy does not necessarily mean the endless series of the librarians and so on solving issues though. You may want to check the Agatha awards - while a lot of the nominations are exactly what you do not want, there are usually a few which may work.

3SandraArdnas
joulukuu 17, 2020, 10:59am

How about a quirky fantasy mystery? The Eyre Affair is part of a short series, but you can read it as a standalone

4Crypto-Willobie
joulukuu 17, 2020, 11:26am

Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout.

5andyl
joulukuu 17, 2020, 11:32am

>4 Crypto-Willobie:

Although it is a long series and the OP didn't want that.

6AnnieMod
joulukuu 17, 2020, 11:38am

>5 andyl:

They are independent though - there is very little connected history and it is usually spelled out when needed.

7Crypto-Willobie
joulukuu 17, 2020, 11:46am

>6 AnnieMod: >5 andyl:

Thanks AnnieMod -- I was just going to point that out.

I was just thinking that Stout is a great storyteller and his use of language is a joy to read. And the murders are generally safely offstage and are not "showy".

8benjclark
joulukuu 17, 2020, 2:34pm

A collection of the Sherlock Holmes short stories may be a good fit.

9Marissa_Doyle
joulukuu 17, 2020, 2:41pm

The Mrs. Pollifax books might suit--there are a dozen and a half or so, but they aren't a series that must be followed--more like a group of stand-alones with the same main character--though it makes sense to read the first book first.

10drneutron
joulukuu 17, 2020, 3:44pm

Ann Cleeves has a new book out, The Long Call. I'm about halfway through and it would seem to fit the bill, at least so far. It's intended to be the start of a series, but the first could be read as a stand-alone.

11flying_monkeys
joulukuu 17, 2020, 4:30pm

Maybe one of these will fit the bill:

Mystery mixed with fantasy - Magic for Liars

A legal/courtroom thriller with heart - Miracle Creek

Sherlock Holmes by Anthony Horowitz - The House of Silk

An old-school gothic - The Wyvern Mystery

A modern gothic - The Supernatural Enhancements

Agatha Christie-esque, set at a French chalet during a blizzard, by Ruth Ware - One by One

12upatree
joulukuu 17, 2020, 5:21pm

I recommend The Woman in the Window. It's a favourite of mine, it's really cool to figure out the story and what's happening.

13rosalita
joulukuu 17, 2020, 5:49pm

I'm going to recommend Ellery Queen's Calamity Town, which is not at all like the typical EQ mystery set in New York City and presenting an elaborate puzzle to be solved. It's set in a small town in upstate New York and the characters are much more the draw than the puzzle.

If you like it and want more along the same lines, Queen set a few other books in Wrightsville that you could consider. My favorites of those are The Murderer Is a Fox and Ten Days' Wonder.

14lesmel
joulukuu 18, 2020, 8:14am

>2 AnnieMod: Isn't the very definition of a "cozy" an amateur detective solves cases?

>9 Marissa_Doyle: Hmm. I might try the first.

>10 drneutron: Oh. That looks appealing!

>11 flying_monkeys: I read Miracle Creek (liked it) this year and Anthony Horowitz (meh) last year. I'm willing to give AH another shot in something that isn't the Daniel Hawthorne series.

>13 rosalita: Hmm. I've never read Ellery Queen.

Thanks to everyone for suggestions! I'll try to report back on anything I read.

15andyl
joulukuu 18, 2020, 9:26am

>14 lesmel:

On the definition of cozy. I don't think so. I could imagine a novel with an amateur detective which is full of sex and violence and action and the very antithesis of cozy. Similarly the Hamish Macbeth books feature a policeman as their main character but are considered cozies.

16drneutron
joulukuu 18, 2020, 9:36am

By the way, Wikipedia has a nice page on cozies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cozy_mystery

17AnnieMod
joulukuu 18, 2020, 9:47am

>14 lesmel:

Kinda but that does not mean that they are all the same.

It is more about the setting (inside of a community/village/small town) and the lack of gory details. If the investigator is a detective or policeman, it does cross into detective but anyone else (doctors, lawyers and so on for example, even a retired policeman can end up the protagonist of a cozy mystery sometimes) is technically still an amateur without the almost absurdity of the super cozies (the cozies with recipes and other cute series out there)...

It really comes down to what one is looking for. :) I'd still recommend to look at the Agatha Awards list and see if something catches your eye.

18flying_monkeys
joulukuu 18, 2020, 11:06am

>17 AnnieMod: Is there a website for the Agatha Awards? I googled the name but only found secondary references to it.

21AnnieMod
joulukuu 18, 2020, 11:21am

>18 flying_monkeys:

They are given by Malice Domestic so https://www.malicedomestic.org/agatha-awards.html is the official site for the awards. Good old Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agatha_Award is also kept uptodate.

22flying_monkeys
joulukuu 18, 2020, 11:42am

23-pilgrim-
joulukuu 18, 2020, 11:51am

I would suggest one of the Fr Brown anthologies of short stories of by G. K. Chesterton.

Fr. Brown uses his professional knowledge of human psychology, honed by years of listening to confessions, to solve crimes.

In essence, they are "solve by psychologist" in structure.

24DisassemblyOfReason
joulukuu 19, 2020, 4:58pm

I would second the Nero Wolfe stories - he and the narrator (who works for him as a personal assistant) are private detectives; they get involved in homicide cases for logical reasons.

Archie is *very* fun to listen to when he starts in on Wolfe. Part of Archie's job is to goad his boss into taking on cases when he doesn't want to work. Wolfe likes a very nice standard of living and charges a lot of money to support it. Archie, among other things, wants the boss to be able to pay his salary...

Manhattan Homicide doesn't like either one of them.

Personally I'd recommend starting with Gambit, which is where I started (quite a way into the series), because I like what's going on in the background when the latest would-be client turns up for her appointment.

25alco261
joulukuu 19, 2020, 9:03pm

Dick Francis has a couple of mysteries I think might meet your requirements. His stories involve various aspects of horse racing or have a horse racing background. There is some violence but for those I've listed the theme is that of a person confronted with a situation they can address/solve because of their background knowledge.

1. Reflex
2. For Kicks
3. Blood Sport

26MHThaung
joulukuu 20, 2020, 5:24pm

How about books by Ellis Peters? Admittely, she wrote series (the Felse and Brother Cadfael books), but the books can be read in any order. I'd say they're gentle mysteries with a cosy touch, but in a different category to today's cosy mysteries.

272wonderY
joulukuu 20, 2020, 5:33pm

Earthly Delights stars a baker, and there is a romance feature. But the real draw is the cast of minor characters. Weird and wonderful. And the location is Melbourne, for a change.

28Milda-TX
joulukuu 22, 2020, 2:12pm

Just finished Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. Unique setting, and I tend to enjoy grouchy older characters.

29amaranthe
joulukuu 22, 2020, 3:05pm

You might like Reginald Hill. I feel like his books are unusually variable as to style and content; some are quite violent and moody while others are less so, though most of them do have at least one unnatural death. They usually have some degree of humor but the amount of that varies as well depending on the book. I have read only his Dalziel and Pascoe books and Joe Sixsmith books, not the various standalones. They're both series, but they don't need to be read in order (I certainly didn't make any attempt to read in order, and it felt fine). Dalziel and Pascoe (and Wield) are cops and Sixsmith is a private investigator.

30enaid
joulukuu 22, 2020, 4:09pm

>29 amaranthe: I loved Reginald Hill's stand alone The Woodcutter. I often wish I could read it for the first time again. It was such a good read!

>1 lesmel: Have you read Stephen Gallagher's Bedlam Detective? It might not be non violent enough but it's very well written. There's a trilogy by Madeleine E. Robins with a wonderful main character named Sarah Tolerance who disguises herself as a man during Georgian England to make a living as a detective. It begins with Point of Honour.

All these books and authors have been wonderful distractions in difficult times.

31bfister
joulukuu 22, 2020, 6:04pm

My tastes are trending this way - from dark to lighter, just not in the mood for lots of violence in a year that has been so awful.

I really liked The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey. It's the first in a series set in India in the 1920s with a woman lawyer as the protagonist. Really well done.

Have you read any of Colin Cotterill's Dr. Siri series? Starts with The Coroner's Lunch. Very odd, very funny, very informative about Laos in the 1970s.

Mick Herron's espionage series starting with Slow Horses is like John Le Carre on laughing gas. Sharp and very funny with a seam of British cynicism running through it. Not light exactly but enjoyable and smart.

Alexander McCall Smith's The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a gentle send-up of Scandinavian Noir. I enjoyed it more than his other series because it has just enough depressive Nordic mood to balance the sweetness.

32kcanderson
joulukuu 22, 2020, 6:06pm

Josephine Tey has books that I think would fit this category. One of my favorites is Brat Farrar.

33bfister
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 4, 4:28pm

Peter Lovesey's Peter Diamond series is, unfortunately, a series but you don't have to read them in order or, indeed, read more than one if you like. They are old school police procedurals set in Bath and considering there are murders they don't tend to be violent or gory. Right between psycho and cozy on the Mystery-o-Meter.

34karenb
joulukuu 23, 2020, 3:50am

Maybe the Richard Jury books by Martha Grimes? Many books but they're not really sequential, just a guy and his friends and a relation, hanging out in town or at the guy's house. And then he travels around the UK solving stuff.

35jck22203
joulukuu 23, 2020, 5:47am

Try the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley. The protagonist is an 11 year old girl but the series can be read by any age. Flavia is a smart, snarky delight.

36jck22203
joulukuu 23, 2020, 5:49am

Also the Miss Silver books by Patricia Wentworth, Laurie R. King's books about Mary Russell.

37em_jay_reads
joulukuu 23, 2020, 7:08am

My recommendation is The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman.

38Crypto-Willobie
joulukuu 23, 2020, 8:39am

>36 jck22203: I was just starting to type Miss Silver!

39indigo192
joulukuu 23, 2020, 9:03am

Light mysteries that aren’t cozies are my favorites too, but I read mostly series. For some more contemporary options I recommend David Rosenfelt (Andy Carpenter), Connie Shelton (Charlie Parker), Lorena McCourtney (Ivy Malone and Mac ‘n’ Ivy), Donna Ball (Raine Stockton), David Handler (Berger and Mitry), Margaret Coel (Wind River Mysteries), Sarah Shaber (Louise Pearlie). Most of these authors have stand-alones too, but I don’t think they’re as good.

40AnnieMod
Muokkaaja: joulukuu 23, 2020, 10:00am

Two series that may fit (as I apparently never posted this message...)

Hugo Marston by Mark Pryor, starting with The Bookseller- set in Paris
Samuel Craddock Mysteries by Terry Shames, starting with A Killing at Cotton Hill - the main investigator is the chief of police in a small town in Texas but I would argue that the main character is actually the community.

Both are pretty clean from the gory details and none of them have a real amateur as the detective. They work as standalones (somewhat) but much better as series.

41LCTaylor
joulukuu 23, 2020, 11:06am

Perhaps Carl Hiaasen might be to your tastes (his adult novels, at any rate). Some of them are connected via shared characters but they're not a series as such, and though the plots hinge on crimes they're also wonderfully, darkly comedic - think "Florida Man" in literary form. I've read about a half dozen of his books and have thoroughly enjoyed them all.

42ddGailH
joulukuu 23, 2020, 2:11pm

>1 lesmel: anything by Donald E. Westlake is a good read. I am currently reading Somebody Owes Me Money. Not bloody or cozy.

43njcur
joulukuu 23, 2020, 3:24pm

>1 lesmel: I would suggest Donna Leon, whose Detective Montalbano lives with a wonderful cast of characters and eats terrific meals. Her mysteries are often quite thought provoking, but not overly violent.

Ann Cleeves has a three different series. Two are police procedurals, but in wonderful settings. Not quite cozy, but not wild and crazy. Great setting and beautiful settings.

I just found Barbara Neely, I thought Blanche Among the Talented Tenth was great. I'm sorry to say she died last March. I thought her characters were great and I learned a lot without meaning to!

44karenb
joulukuu 23, 2020, 3:45pm

>43 njcur: Seconding Barbara Neely! Only a few titles, but good.

45enaid
joulukuu 23, 2020, 5:05pm

>42 ddGailH: I didn't realize that Barbara Neely had passed. She was a lovely woman. I met her back when the first Blanche book came out. It's always nice when an author is also a really lovely person. An excellent series and a timely one, in the best possible way.

46MisBklover
joulukuu 24, 2020, 12:53am

>1 lesmel: Maybe try Lucy Foley’s books. Mysteries. Not a series. I enjoyed The Hunting Party and The Guest List.

47andyl
joulukuu 24, 2020, 5:15am

>43 njcur:

You are mixing up your Italian detectives. Montalbano is by Andrea Camilleri. Leon's detective is Guido Brunetti.

48JessicaLane
Muokkaaja: joulukuu 24, 2020, 11:10am

Yes, I agree, not too gory or graphic. In fact, just wrote this (below) to a friend requesting suggestions for new reads:

"I find I very much enjoy mystery stories by certain authors, especially those that feel more like novels of manners or those that have a lot of detail about a community or place I don't know very well. Ones like the Tony Hillerman novels set in the Navaho Nation, which had all sorts of fascinating social anthropology and archeology along with dead bodies. (not that I like the dead bodies part and as always with my pleasure reading, can't be too graphic or disgusting.)"

So, I second the Ellis Peters recommendation, along with (obvs) the Tony Hillerman Sgt. Leaphorn mysteries. Both *are* series but can be read out of order.

Have you tried Louise Penny? I particularly like A Fatal Grace.

If you frequent used paperback stores, look for Ngaio Marsh books and Nevada Barr books.

Lastly (for right now), I highly recommend two stand-alones by Laurie King. Her novels Touchstone and Folly. Oooh, and you must try A Grave Talent.

An aside: Laurie King is one of only a scant handful of authors whose books I pre-order (at our local indie) in hardcover, reviews unread. Lovely prose.

Enjoy!

49SandraArdnas
joulukuu 24, 2020, 10:04am

I second Donna Leon rec. Guido Brunetti isn't an amateur investigator, it isn't gory and it's set in Venice and touches upon Italian culture in general and Venice in particular. I read a few randomly out of order so not a series in that sense.

50ABVR
Muokkaaja: joulukuu 24, 2020, 11:37am

Adding an enthusiastic second (or third) for Tony Hillerman and Ellis Peters, as well as Josephine Tey.

And then there's . . .

Note 1: All series, but so loosely connected they can be read in essentially random order, if you don't mind abrupt shifts in the hero's relationship status. :-)

Note 2: All technically "amateur" detectives, but with backstories that make their involvement in the crimes they investigate at least semi-plausible.

Aaron Elkins, whose "Gideon Oliver" novels feature a physical anthropologist whose skill at "reading" skeletal remains gets him roped into investigating crimes in a variety of exotic locations. Elkins' main characters are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet in mystery fiction.

William G. Tapply, whose amateur detective, Brady Coyne, is a Boston trusts-and-estates attorney who attends to the needs of his wealthy clients -- including sorting out the truth behind occasional unnatural deaths -- in order to support his fly-fishing habit.

Philip R. Craig, who did a long series of lightweight stories about J. W. Jackson, a retired Boston cop (medical disability after being shot, so he's still a young man) solving murders on the island of Martha's Vineyard. I don't think of them as cozies, because I live here, but reading one will give you a sense.

Fletch, Confess, Fletch, and Flynn, by Gregory McDonald are a kind of loose, jack-leg trilogy: The first and second feature the same main character (investigative reporter Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher), but the plots are essentially unconnected, and although the main character in the third is a supporting character in the second they can be read in either order. Ignore the later "Fletch" books unless you fall in love with the character, ignore the later "Flynn" books at all costs, and don't let the Chevy Chase film Fletch (which is the film-adaptation equivalent of using Kobe beef to make chicken-fried steak).

51kosteral
joulukuu 24, 2020, 12:26pm

Check out author Paul Tremblay--I really enjoy his stuff. Like you, I've found I can't do full-blown thrillers during the pandemic. His stuff has nice twists, but it's not a punch in the gut. I especially recommend "A Head Full of Ghosts" and "Growing Things" short stories. You might want to avoid "The Cabin at the End of the World" for now--it's a great book, but not during a world crisis!

52mythbegotten
joulukuu 24, 2020, 12:30pm

>1 lesmel:

In the Agatha Christie vein, try Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. Patricia Wentworth (Miss Silver books)

Michael Innes might be another to try. I haven't read them, but years ago my dad was reading a lot of mysteries and sought out all the Innes he could find.

The Nero Wolfe series is so loosely connected that you can read them in any order, or none at all. I do find it interesting to see how the world (and life at the brownstone) shifts over the decades the series was written.

Louise Penny has been mentioned. She's very good, but I find that her work is psychologically much darker than I want to re-read, so I only ever get her books from the library now.

Elly Griffiths, maybe? The parts of her books I remember have nothing to do with the mystery, but the longer, overarching character and plot developments. Might be too serial for your preferences.

Alan Bradley's Flavia De Luce series is hilarious and wonderful but it is a series. Maybe read the first and see what you think.

53kosteral
joulukuu 24, 2020, 12:33pm

Oh--also consider Carlos Luiz Zafon's "The Shadow of the Wind". I know you said you didn't want a series--this is the first book in his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series of ~4 books, but after Shadow/Wind they can be read in any order. They are exquisitely written/translated.... absolutely luscious! You'll want to read them slowly and savor them.

54Reed_Stirling
joulukuu 24, 2020, 5:20pm

Useat käyttäjät ovat merkinneet tämän viestin asiattomaksi eikä sitä enää näytetä. (näytä)
If you like a challenging read, one that takes you to the Greek island of Crete where you can meet a host of intriguing characters, try Reed Stirling's Shades of Persephone.

55JessicaLane
joulukuu 26, 2020, 4:21pm

>50 ABVR: Ooooh! I had forgotten abput Gideon Oliver! Thanks for the reminder!

56monnibo
tammikuu 4, 5:24pm

With the caveat that these are the first books in series, the books themselves are stand alone, and it is the sleuth’s journey that is explored through the series.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce)

An Old Cold Grave by Iona Whishaw (Lane Winslow Mystery)

57gmathis
tammikuu 5, 12:14pm

The Barker and Llewellyn mysteries by Will Thomas are favorites of mine. Earlier ones in the series can be read independently, I think; my most-reread title is The Limehouse Text.

58nessreader
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 29, 2:12pm

Another golden age crime writer not mentioned above is Gladys Mitchell whose recurring character Mrs Bradley, a badtempered psychiatry genius, is the anti Miss Marple. Mitchell wrote about the same time as Christie. The stories are standalones.