Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Recommend to a Non-Mystery reader.

What a cool topic for today, Top Ten Tuesday is the weekly meme hosted by the gals at THE BROKE AND THE BOOKISH. So don't forget to head on over there and check out the rest of the Tuesday Top Ten Lists at this link.

Hard as it is to believe I know there are people out there who do not read mysteries or thrillers. I know, I know, you're saying: huh? Me too.

But let's pretend that those who haven't been converted are merely waiting for the right approach. So without further ado, here are my

Top Ten Mystery and/or Thriller Books I'd Recommend to a Non-Reader of Mysteries and/or Thrillers.

1) The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

The book that begins it all. This is the only instance where a writer has managed to continue  characters created by someone else - in this case, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed Sherlock Holmes and John Watson - and done a hell of a job. King turns Holmes into a real life flesh and blood man and creates a new partner for him, a young woman of equal brilliance and eccentricity. If you have even just a vague notion of Holmes, this book will wow you.

2) The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This can probably be read as a luscious though sinister Victorian sojourn in the company of one of the foulest and creepiest villains in English literature. Damsels in distress, thwarted young love, moody evenings in the fog.  What more could you want?

3) The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

When a Scotland Yard inspector breaks a leg and is confined to hospital, his friend brings him books and mags to read. While looking at a print of the notorious crook-back, the reviled Richard III whom most everyone knows murdered the two young princes in the tower of London - his brother's children - so he, Richard could become King, Inspector Grant begins to muse.

The story has captured his interest and, having nothing better to do, he asks the friend to bring him more research material on Richard III. Thereby Tey spins a mesmerizing tale of long overdue retribution. Grant begins to realize that perhaps, history is totally wrong.

4) The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

A young girl disappears from her heretofore 'idyllic' neighborhood and family and friends are devastated. Megan Abbott brings to vivid life the often moody world of a thirteen year old Midwestern girl whose best friend's disappearance makes her question everything she knows or thought she knew. A moving, gut wrenchng read.

5) Not All Tarts are Apples by Pip Grainger

It's 1953 London and young Rosie Featherby is 7 years old. She is beloved by everyone who has had a hand is raising her, including her step parents Bert and Maggie. Rosie is trusting, caring and rather wise for her tender years. She thinks her London block is the best place in the world to be and who could blame her? The block is full of affectionate eccentrics who adore her.

But not everyone has Rosie's best interests at heart.

Certain events have begun to confuse the issue of who she really is and how she came to be brought up by the owners of a working class cafe on Old Compton Street in Soho.

A possible kidnapping is in the works.

The charm of this wonderful book is in the writing talent of Pip Grainger and the whole world on a London block she's created. The observant Rosie tells the tale from her point of view.

6) The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Derring-do during the French Revolution as 18th century English aristocrat Sir Percy Blakeney masquerades as a fop by day and a dashing hero by night. He crosses the channel accompanied by two or three faithful-until-death followers, and helps French aristos to escape the guillotine. In the meantime, his beautiful wife grows more and more contemptuous of his foolish foppishness.

7) The City and the City by China Mieville

I definitely can't do any better than to point you to this fabulous review of one of my all time favorite books. I'm not usually a reader of fantasy or science fiction, but sometimes a writer transcends genre and you have to go with the flow. This is a combo mystery/thriller/sci-fi tale which should fascinate any reader.

8) Lost In A Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Not the first in this literately inclined and very fun, mystery/thriller/fantasy series, but this particular volume is my favorite. It is visually full of everything wonderful from the mind of one of the more inventive writers working today.

Fforde is the king of puns, literary jokes, double meanings and imaginative other wordiness. He has created an alternate universe - an England where, among other things, computers haven't been invented nor has air travel, except for balloons and airships. In this place and time, the literary world is a live, separate entity. Pages of a book can be entered, classic tales can be altered and characters from books can interact with humans. Oh yes, and time travel is occasionally possible.

 It is the job of the literary detective to see that the classics aren't fussed with.  (Imagine altering the end of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE or JANE EYRE - horrors!)

This is where Thursday Next, Literary Detective comes in. Fforde's heroine is charged with keeping a very vibrant literary world from running amok. Good luck.

9) Come to Grief by Dick Francis

A tale of thwarted friendship, misplaced loyalty, evil in the guise of normality and the resulting escalation of violence aimed at ruining a man's life. This is an Edgar Award Winner (Award named after Edgar Allan Poe) and rightly so. One of Francis's finest books. Read the intriguing synopsis here.

10) Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson

A literate 18th century historical mystery enhanced by incredibly good writing. An amazing debut. See my review from yesterday.


  1. Great list -- I've got to try Jasper Fforde (I way behind the times). I DID add the Instruments of Darkness to my TBR.

  2. Oh Joanne, don't forget to let us know what you think of Robertson's book. :)

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed you'll like it as much as I did.

    Jasper Fforde is exhilirating. :)

  3. I like the list. The Tey and Grainger books are the ones on my list.

  4. Thanks.

    Two good ones, Mystica. :)

  5. I'm not an avid mystery reader so I enjoyed seeing the books you recommend, Yvette. Your descriptions peeked my interest in quite a few.


    Thanks so much for your words of condolence--they were greatly appreciated.

  6. Pat: I'm always at a loss for words when bad things happen to people I like. So you're very welcome if anything I said helped in any small measure.

    Back to the subject at hand: these are good books if you're just looking to wet your toe in the mystery genre. :)

  7. The Grainger and the Robertson pique my fancy.

    Does 1953 as a setting count as historical or vintage? (I've got to think about challenges.)

    Your lists are always interesting.

  8. Yvette: You have an eclectic list. I am curious as to your criteria for interesting the non-mystery non-thriller reader.

  9. I'll put these on my reading list. Still working my way through the Nero Wolfe mysteries at present, thanks to you. I've been reading them in order. Up to 1949 now, The Second Confession.

  10. Kathy: I don't think either will qualify for Vintage. It's the year they were copyrighted that counts.

    But read 'em anyway. They're terrific books.

  11. Bill, here's my thinking:

    I figured there might be sci-fi readers who didn't read mysteries so I included a couple for them.

    Then I included a couple of literary type for those inclined to sneer at genre.

    A couple of historicals too for those who appreciate them.

    You'll notice I included no hard-boiled and no real whodunits because I think non-mystery readers would want to be eased into that. I figured once they realize that there are all sorts of mysteries - they're not all the same - they might want to delve further.

    And too, THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE is a curious manuscript because it's partitioned more like a series of short stories which tie up at the end.

    Toe in the water, so to speak.

    I hope that answers your question, Bill.

  12. M.M. Oh I envy you reading them for the first time. :)

    But I'll bet once you finish you'll want to reread them in the future. Wolfe and Archie get under your skin.

    I think you might try COME TO GRIEF by Dick Francis from this list. First, I mean. I have a feeling you'd like it.

    Depending how you feel about Holmes, you might enjoy THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE very much.

    THE DAUGHTER OF TIME is another one I think you might like.

    Then you might try Josephine Tey's BRAT FARRAR as well. Didn't add it to the list but I might have.

  13. Yvette: Thanks for the explanation. I knew they were not chosen at random.

  14. Nice list, Yvette! I was pleasantly surprised to find Dick Francis make the list. I read his novels in college, though I don't recall having read COME TO GRIEF. Collins' WOMAN IN WHITE was both intriguing and engrossing as I remember, and ahead of its time. Having acquired Jasper Fforde's ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING recently, I Googled your blog for a review and came up with one in April 2011. I think you've written about Fforde's books on more than one occasion.

  15. I am probably one of the world's biggest Dick Francis fans. I read almost every single book he ever wrote, except for maybe the last couple or so.

    COME TO GRIEF is a classic far as I'm concerned.

    Oh I write about Jasper Fforde all the time. I've read eveything he ever wrote as well. :)


    My three Fforde faves.

    I also enjoyed SHADES OF GREY which is the first book in separate series.

  16. I think that anyone reading about the Wolfegang will be pulled into reading mysteries. There is no blood and gore nor gratuitous violence. That is great wit and often, wonderful writing.

    As a teen-ager these were among my first mysteries. I appreciate them more now, the wonderful sarcasm and repartee.

    I just wrote a post on another blog about how good mystery writing does NOT require blood and guts and violence described on the pages, and that there are many series, including Rex Stout's, that have stood the test of time, without those elements.

    The requirements are good writing, interesting plots and characters, deductive reasoning and a logical conclusion. Wit doesn't hurt either!

    "Archie, I am a genius, not a good," is a classic line. So is "I have a feel for phenomena!"

    These books have lasted almost 80 years. That says a lot. So glad this website caused me to refind them. Come to think of it, I'm suffering from a lack of Wolfism lately, must remedy that.

  17. My library trip yesterday was a success and I now have Instruments of Darkness in my grubby little hands. So excited!

    Great list! The Daughter of Time and The Scarlet Pimpernel are two of my all-time favorites and The Woman in White is on my to-read-very-soon list.

  18. I waited years to read THE WOMAN IN WHITE and once I did I wondered why I'd waited. It's fabulous!

    Let us know how you like INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that after all my hoopla, you will like it.

    Otherwise I'm going to be very verklempt.

  19. Kathy, I agree with you completely. You know how much I love the Wolfe books.

    Wit, style and talent, that's all you need. Oh, and a touch of genius too.

  20. Right, a touch of genius, not godliness.

    Your blog got me restarted on the Wolfegang. And I really do think I'm suffering from withdrawal from not having read a book about the "genius" for months.

    It's just how many books can one read when the TBR mountain keeps growing? And then there are movies!

    I just got Heights from the library, among others.

    One aside I could make is that many writers today don't have Stout's writing talent, so violence and gore and body counts take center stage. Ugh!

    I did read the Mary Russell book you list here. I like the series.

  21. It's the world of Wolfe and Archie that most attracts me when I'm in the mood to visit.

    Nobody has Stout's talent. That's just a given.

  22. Meant to add: Don't forget to let me know how you like HEIGHTS. I think it is a very underrated motion picture. :)

  23. And as I repeat continually, that review of The Woman in White should be reposted and linked to other websites. It should be nominated for a Vintage award.

    I have to reread it.

    Will send it to a friend to read it if I can find it.

    Also, you have said that any of the Wolfe short story books are good. Do you recommend any or should I just find what I can?

  24. Kathy if you check on my left side bar, scroll down a bit, you'll find a Nero Wolfe box. You can link to most of my Nero Wolfe posts from that. You should be able to find the short stories I recommended.

    I love that you love my WOMAN IN WHITE review. I kind of like it too. It was SO much fun to write.

    If you go to the search box at the very bottom of the blog, just type in the name of the book and maybe 'review' and it should turn up at the top of the blog. :)

  25. Though I am a mystery/thriller fan, I've read only (gasp!) one book from this list. Shows how lacking has been my reading.

  26. No, it just means you haven't had the time. :)

    Sorry I'm so late in posting a reply - I overlooked it and well, you know how it is.

  27. No problem, Yvette. I know how it is:).


Your comment will appear after I take a look.