It’s hard these days to find something to do.
The chaos of this last year still lingers, and the aftershock waves of restarting economies continue to impact everything from television to toilet paper. The need to relax with our favorite pastimes has increased in 2020, and the tools to do so – like everything else – are harder to come by.
Readers have experienced a similar slow-down in publishing content, but more difficult yet has been the inability to get in and browse books in libraries and bookstores to facilitate a well-needed escape. At Aldrich Public Library we are following expert recommendations to quarantine books for six days before offering them to the public. This combined with the lack of access to ‘the stacks’, has left some patrons needing extra help finding their next read. By understanding the way that a genre is categorized, you may have a little more luck in discovering your next favorite book.
Mystery is a beloved genre, holding a large place in book collections due to its universal appeal and often satisfying resolution. Mysteries are generally grouped into three subgenres with common narrative elements, and readers may find they gravitate more to one style of mystery over others.
Cozy mystery. For those looking for a classic whodunnit with an upbeat tone, cozy mysteries are a fantastic fit. Sometimes referred to as “gentle reads,” the cozy hides the violence of murder and focuses on catching the criminal. Many cozies feature an amateur sleuth who must use cunning and second-hand deduction to solve our crime, incorporating a healthy dose of amusement as well. Location is featured heavily in these titles, with idyllic beach towns, English villages, or even a charming bakery woven into the plot.
If a fun and engaging read is what you are looking for, check out authors Joanne Fluke or Agatha Christie (or simply ask your local librarian for a cozy author advisory).
For those new to the cozy mystery, there are plenty of authors to choose from, though starting with the staple author, M.C. Beaton, will offer a humorous and fast-paced read. Agatha Raisin and the “Quiche of Death” introduces us to the protagonist, who discovers she is less built for quaint country living than she expected after moving to the British Cotswold’s. When her store-bought quiche poisons the judge in a local baking contest, an amateur detective is born. Though Beaton passed away last year, her final Agatha Raisin book is expected this November, and her outsider’s take on the cozy mystery culture will be missed.
Hardboiled Detective. ‘Hardboiled’ mysteries center around professional private detectives with bleaker surroundings and brooding characters. Lacking the upbeat nature of cozy heroes, PI’s in this sub-genre see or experience violence, and the chase to solve the crime may take on more suspenseful and thrilling paces. These detectives tend to be tough and moral, though not always legal.
If you are looking for a title to keep you up at night, look for authors Dennis Lehane or Sue Grafton or ask your librarian for “brooding”, “compelling” hardboiled fiction.
A great introduction to hardboiled fiction is Robert Crais’ “The Monkey’s Raincoat.” Complete with a widow in distress, a smart-mouthed cynical PI, and a fast-paced mystery in sunny L.A., Crais’ series exemplifies the sub-genre.
Police Procedural. While these books may feature some rogue or loner detectives, solving the mystery in police procedural involves a lot of by-the-book techniques and includes the help of forensics and legal specialists. Procedurals share the grittiness and violence of hardboiled mysteries but include the technical aspects of crime-solving. The added support of medical examiners, profilers, and police personnel contribute to a large and diverse cast in many procedural series.
If you are looking to root for law and order, look for authors John Sanford or Michael Connelly. First time procedural readers and those most familiar with James Patterson’s series may enjoy Ian Rankin’s “Knots and Crosses,” featuring former SAS agent turned Inspector, John Rebus. Rebus works to stop a string of murders that connect to a past he has tried to forget.
If you are a mystery fan (or if you think you might be), your local librarian is available to help you identify what you loved about your last favorite book and assist you with finding your next one.
Check out our website at www.AldrichPublicLibrary.org to connect with a librarian and arrange for curbside pickup on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday.
Loren Polk is the director of the Aldrich Public Library in Barre. Aldrich is part of a rotation of local librarians making suggestions for avid readers of all ages.