Friday, October 8, 2010

Forgotten Mystery Series

It's Forgotten Friday on some blogs today, but, apparently only of an indvidual book or two. I thought I'd do a Forgotten Series post, instead.

I found only a few of the covers online so I couldn't, in some cases, post the first cover in the series. These three series of books have one thing obviously in common: they are all set in the world of art or antiques, a favorite world of mine to read about.

1) Oxford historian Iain Pears is known for his stand-alone books, AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST, THE DREAM OF SCIPIO and STONE'S FALL But previously to these bestsellers, he wrote a terrific series of mysteries featuring a hapless art historian living in Italy. Jonathan Argyll is a Brit who unofficially helps Rome's Art Theft Squad solve crimes centering on art theft, forgery and murder. The thing I like most about Argyll is his total uncoolness. He is anything but the dashing art specialist with a huge ego, called in to save the day.

I was heartbroken when Pears stopped writing the Jonathan Argyll books. If you're even remotely interested in art, Italy, mysteries, great writing with wonderful characterization, find and read these books.

Some titles to get you started:

THE RAFAEL AFFAIR

THE BERNINI BUST

THE TITIAN COMMITTEE

THE LAST JUDGEMENT

DEATH AND RESTORATION



2) The Jason Lynx books by A.J. Orde (otherwise known as sci-fi author Sheri S. Tepper), are hard to find but oh-so-well-worth the search. The first in the series A LITTLE NEIGHBORHOOD MURDER should be available occasionally, on the secondary market. This is definitely a series that needs to be read in order. Jason Lynx is an antiques dealer and designer living and working in Denver, Colorado. He is a dog lover, the owner of a Kuvasz, a rare breed of Hungarian watch-dog. The dog is named Bela, after Bela Lugosi. This alone told me I was destined to like Jason Lynx.

Lynx is a man of mystery. He's never known who his father was, the last name of Lynx was given to him at an orphanage because as a child his blond hair twisted upwards like a Lynx cat's ears. So part of the series' arch, is Jason trying to find out who he really is. The second mystery thread in the early books is Jason needing and trying to find out how his wife died - murder or accident?

A LITTLE NEIGHBORHOOD MURDER is a heartbreaking mystery - the murder a particularly cruel and sad one so it's a bit difficult to read. People really can be vile - can't they? But don't miss this series, if you can find it.

Some titles to get you started:

LITTLE NEIGHBORHOOD MURDER

DEATH AND THE DOG WALKER

DEATH FOR OLD TIMES' SAKE

LOOKING FOR THE AARDVARK


3) Art Historian Nicholas Kilmer writes a wonderfully quirky and often sinister series set in Boston, Ma. featuring the charming and
eccentric Boston Brahmin art dealer Clayton Reed and his enigmatic all-purpose, but entirely honorable, henchman Fred Taylor. Fred is a Vietnam vet with dark memories who cannot, will not, tolerate belongings and/or belonging, anywhere. Though he appears to have settled down in Boston with a librarian named Molly and her two kids - this relationship is well written and made believable as the series progresses. Fred owns an old house which he allows other Vietnam vets to use (as long as they follow a few rules) whenever anyone of them needs a place to crash, no questions asked. These are damaged souls and Fred understands, from his own experience, that times can be tough for these men.

Fred is the direct opposite of the excitable Clayton, but the two men get along, Fred helping well-to-do Clayton in his never ending search for the next long lost painting or rare work of art. I would say, that for whatever reason, the first book in the series, MADONNA OF THE APES (released after the series ended and apparently written in some sort of rush) is to be avoided. Other than that one mistake, the rest of the series is splendid.

Begin with HARMONY IN FLESH AND BLACK, and continue from there. I love all the books in the series (with the one exception), most especially the wry and very funny, DIRTY LINEN. These are not to be classified as cozies by the way, since some of the murders are rather gruesome and front and center. A couple of the books have been re-issued with new covers. But I'd try and find the gorgeous covers used the first time around - if you care about that sort of thing. A well-designed book is a thing of beauty as far as I'm concerned.

Some titles to get you started:

HARMONY IN FLESH AND BLACK

MAN WITH A SQUIRREL

O' SACRED HEAD

DIRTY LINEN

I've just this moment realized that Nicholas Kilmer has written another book in the Fred Taylor series. A book I have not read so I can't recommend. However, I'll be getting my hands on it asap and will report. The title: A BUTTERFLY IN FLAME . This automatically goes on my tbr list.

If you have the inclination, check these books out. I can practically guarantee you'll be rewarded by a terrific read. Yeah, I know, I use the word terrific a lot, but you know, I only recommend that type of book.

6 comments:

  1. These books look like lovely reads! Enjoy the weekend, Kellie xx

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  2. They are wonderful! Happy weekend to you too, Kellie! Spring in Australia - wow. We're just entering Autumn here, the days are crisp and cool, my favorites.

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  3. I read her other books too, under B J Oliphant...I was a newly voracious reader and I coudln't get enough. Did you see she now runs a ranch in Santa Fe, NM? Interesting!

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  4. Jean, it's funny, I never could get into her B.J. Oliphant books OR her sci-fi, but I LOVED the Jason Lynx books. Didn't know she had a ranch in N.M. I wonder if she's still writing.

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  5. I am VERY interested in art and in Italy!! Thanks for this recommendation of Iain Pears' Jonathan Argyll!!

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  6. Coffee and a Book Chick: Oh, I'm always happy to recommend my favorite books. I hope you'll like them as much as I do. Try and read them in order, if you can. ;)

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