I like to browse in the mystery section of my local bookstore or library to see if there are any new authors (new to me, that is) that look interesting. I often see the same names over and over and tell myself, I need to try that guy or lady. And then years later I'll finally read that author and feel I've discovered something new and wonderful that I want to share with others. It dawns on me that the reason I kept seeing the author's name is because everyone else has already discovered them, and it is about time I get with the program. Here are two authors that have been around awhile, but I am just now discovering, C. J. Box and M.C. Beaton.
C. J. Box started his Wyoming series about game warden Joe Pickett in Open Season. Joe has a strong sense of right and wrong. He remains true to himself despite a mother-in-law, who feels her daughter Marybeth could have done a lot better, and the previous game warden, who likes to manipulate him and remind him of all he's done for Joe. Living in a small run down house with his daughters and a meager salary, Joe sticks to his principles. The actions he takes to protect his family and his way of life seem surprising in such a peace-loving man.
At first I thought the book was designed for a young adult audience for a couple of reasons. One was the fact that instead of using pronouns, Box continuously repeated Joe's name, so that it read at times like a Dick and Jane primer. The other was because the author spoke through Joe's seven-year old daughter, Sheridan, and gave her a major role in the book.
But as the story progressed and included the gritty reality of hunting, which is part of being a game warden, I decided this was indeed for mature audiences. The author kept me guessing as to the direction Joe would take, regarding his conflict between what was right in the eyes of the law and what he thought was best for his family and community. It was a good read, and I hope to catch up with everyone else, who has been reading this series since it began in 2001.
On the lighter side, M.C. Beaton has to her credit two major series, one with a male lead and one with a female. The cozy I selected, Death of an Addict, features a male police officer in the northern highlands of Scotland. I picked one from the middle of what is now a twenty-eight book series.
Hamish (James in English) MacBeth is a comfortable, yet intelligent police officer in the small town of Lochdubh. When a young tenant, who is writing a book about his past, dies of an overdose, Hamish is not convinced it is a suicide. He investigates the heroin trade in the nearby city of Strathbane. The information he finds out gets him involved with a policewoman, but as hinted in the book, he cannot seem to persuade any lady to settle down with him. Local townspeople of Lochdubh have their quirks and often aid Hamish in his investigations. He fights both the criminals and a Strathbane police inspector, who is jealous of his talents and would like to see him disappear.
This is one of the better cozies I've read and it reminds me of the Evan Evans series by Rhys Bowen, which went from 1997 to 2006. Beaton has been doing her series since 1985. Although I generally dislike the genre, don't let my bias keep you from reading this light-hearted series with its charming central hero and colorful cast of characters.
Copyright 2011 by Linda K. Murdock, the author of Mystery Lover's Puzzle Book, Crosswords with Clues from Your Favorite Mystery Series. Her book is a mini-anthology that includes reviews of 29 award-winning writers, who do mystery series. A check-off list of all the series' titles, along with a puzzle for each series, are included. See a sample crossword and learn more at http://bellwetherbooks.co
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