The earliest books I remember reading on my own were the Bobbsey Twins series where two sets of rosy cheeked twins set out to solve simple mysteries in their basically safe world. The younger set of twins were blonde haired and blue eyed and the older were dark haired and brown eyed. Luckily, kids didn’t know anything about genetics in those days or someone might have been accusing Mrs. Bobbsey of straying….
From there I moved on to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. I liked the Hardy Boys better because their mysteries were (as I eventually figured out) more interesting because there were two sleuths to bounce ideas back and forth between them. I have remembered that in my own writing and both of my mystery series feature partnered sleuths.
In my early teens I was heavily into gothic romances with a mysterious twist from writers like Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. In every book, the heroine’s romantic interest had some type of mystifying past that needed to be unraveled before they could live happily ever after. I was too young to wonder about what that much baggage would do to a relationship! In my books the baggage has a recurring role as my characters try to rise above or just come to peace with their pasts.
In my late teens I moved on to Dick Frances, Tony Hillerman and Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Polifax series. I loved Frances’ economy in choosing words, and Hillerman’s use of place and belief systems as driving forces in every story, and I loved the humor and quirkiness of Gilman’s characters and situations. I have tried to emulate Dorothy Gilman’s tone and Hillerman’s use of place in my books, and reread Dick Francis to absorb his skill in pulling the reader immediately into the story.
As an adult, my favorite authors include Deborah Crombie, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Jaqueline Winspear, Chris Grabenstein and Lee Child. The first three write books with intense relationships and a good amount of inner dialogue for the characters. Those authors make writing seem effortless because the stories flow so smoothly. Chris Grabenstein’s John Ceepak books are snort out loud funny and can’t be read while eating or drinking anything. Finally, I enjoy Lee Child because the bad guys always end up in a bad way – broken bones and damaged egos – and there are days where that really appeals to me!
I have read and enjoyed many other mysteries and I could fill several pages with reviews and reasons I like them, but with an eye to space and keeping readers awake I have tried to pick out the high points. I own all the books these authors have written and keep an eagle eye out for any new releases. What authors do you rush to read as soon as a new book is published?