Though I’m a children’s librarian I tend to read a fairly wide variety of works across genre and age group. A favorite genre would be mysteries. In fact, I produce the NextReads Mystery newsletter for the library every month. Nextreads newsletters come in over 30 topics and provide you a list of new releases and themed recommendations on a regular basis.
In the Mystery newsletter we not only highlight great mystery reads, but also the activity of some of our local branch book clubs. Interested in checking out our newsletters? Find them here.
First, as a children’s librarian, I would be amiss if I didn’t recommend a favorite children’s mystery. I have to say that you can’t go wrong with anything written by Blue Balliet. Her books are among those that I often recommend if you’re looking to read together as a family. Interesting enough for the children, but still written smartly enough to engage the parents. The first book I encountered by Ms. Balliet is titled The Danger Box. This is a standalone, featuring a boy named Zoom, who is legally blind, and has OCD. He lives with his grandparents in a small town, and must figure out what’s going on with a mysterious box, and solve the mystery of a stranger lurking about town. Another intriguing installment in Ms. Balliet’s work is Chasing Vermeer, the beginning entry of an art heist trilogy complete with codes to crack and puzzles to solve.
Two of my favorite mystery series are historical mysteries. The first, the Gaslight Mysteries series by Victoria Thompson, is set in 1890’s New York City. This title features Sarah Brandt, a widowed midwife who also is a former socialite, and Frank Malone a gruff Irish police sergeant. The two meet in the first installment, Murder on Astor Place, and form an uneasy alliance while working to solve a murder, and that relationship continues in further installments. While they can be read out of order, I would recommend starting with the first and working through them in order. The period details and interplay of class and heritage fascinate me in every installment.
Another series that has a similar feel with the play of class and rich historical detail is the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. The first in the series, titled Maisie Dobbs, introduces us to Maisie, a young maid in one of the grand houses of England in the period just before the first World War. Maisie has an insatiable thirst for books and knowledge that leads to her discovery one night in the grand library. This discovery leads to her education, her work as a nurse in the war, and her eventual work as a private investigator. I cannot recommend this series enough to readers.
A final recommendation is A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders. Samantha “Sam” Clair is a London book editor who mostly goes about her routine until one day the new book by a famous gossip writer stirs up a crime investigation. The characters developed in this title kept me interested through the end of the book, and then on to the second installment, A Bed of Scorpions. A third installment, A Cast of Vultures, was released in 2016 and will be added to my to-read list immediately.
I hope you’ll find a new read in my list, and if not, check out our NextReads newsletters for more inspiration!