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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Guest Post: Mysteries and Me by Larraine Formica

From MRM:  Today on the blog, voracious reader Larraine Formica talks about how she became a mystery reader and shares her current favorites.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book nearby. As a kid, I fell in love with Nancy Drew. There was also a series whose heroine, Cherry Ames, was a nurse who solved mysteries.  It was my Dad, talking about reading Agatha Christie when he was young, who really got me interested in the genre

I tend to have rather strong opinions about the quality of books today. I split my reading between literary/popular fiction and what are now called “crime novels.” Lately I have started a number of books only to return them to the library unfinished. Life is short: too many books, too little time. 

While I still enjoy some cozies, I prefer them with a little bit of “bite.” For me, that means I’m looking for some quality of writing, a story line that makes a little sense. For me, writers like Cleo Coyle’s coffee shop series, Susan Wittig Albert’s herbal series, Margaret Maron’s Judge Deborah, Miranda (Dean) James’ Diesel the cat, M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin and Hamish MacBeth and Clea Simon’s Theda Krakow & Dulcie Schwartz especially stand out. As a cat lover, I have a soft spot in my heart for Sofie Kelly’s “magical cat series.”  This is a series that definitely requires a suspension of belief, but it’s done in a sort of tongue-in-cheek approach which I like.

However, in the end, the books that intrigue me and keep me coming back are the ones with great stories that are a little dark, sometimes a little funny and – sometimes – teach you something you didn’t know before. I love Elizabeth George, Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, Walter Mosley, Stuart Neville, James Lee Burke, Louise Penny & Donna Leon. 

All of them explore the dark underbelly of human emotion, bureaucracy and the constant tension between doing the right thing vs. what is profitable. They are often not easy to digest. They often don’t offer a happy or even satisfying ending. What they all have in common though is a certain musicality of language that I love and appreciate. In real life there are no easy answers. I cherish the authors who know how to express that in a satisfying and interesting way.


  1. I remember reading Cherry Ames books as a young teenager. Thanks for your guest post for reliving memories for me

  2. I had a similar experience growing up, starting with the Hardy Boys, moving on to Agatha Christie (I read every one of her books by the time I was in 10th grade) and then to John D. MacDonald. I had Mystery Guild and Detective Book Club memberships, and went through books like crazy.

  3. From reader Ilona (who had trouble posting):

    I also adored Nancy Drew growing up -- Now it's Kinsey Millhone and Stephanie Plum -- for the guys - Spenser is tops for me. I also like Jesse Stone and Kurt Wallender and quite a few others -- and I recently discovered the Lucas Davenport detective series.

  4. I loved Chery Ames and couldn't wait for the next book to come out. Continued with other mysteries as I grew into my teens and loved all the John D. MacDonald's. Now my favorites authors are both Faye and Jonathan Kellerman and also Daniel Silva. I will try anyone once, but if the characters are not someone I would want to know if they really existed I won't read a second book by that author. That includes the spy type books as well as cozies. Just as long as the story holds my attention.


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