What attracts readers to mystery fiction? Simple curiosity? A desire to uncover the truth? A need to see justice be done? The thrill of resolving a puzzle? All of the above?
Like many gamers, I have begun playing the excellent video game L.A. Noire, a detective console game in which one plays at solving crimes in 1940’s Los Angeles – as if you are in an interactive novel. And what better way to further immerse oneself into the gaming experience than to read a good mystery novel or two? But where to begin? The library has a huge selection of mystery fiction with lots of recommended authors and well-loved characters.
There are of course the Victorian classics like those of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is still one of my favourite detective stories, especially the dynamic interactions between Holmes and Watson during this investigation.
Inspector Maigret’s stories, by French author George Simenon, are set in Paris between the wars. These books are a fond favourite due to the slow tempo of the intrigue that contrasts with that of more contemporary thrillers.
A little more modern and hard-boiled, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, and Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon are two of the un-missable authors of noir detective stories, where the plots are more action-oriented. The heroes, usually private investigators, must use their physical skills as well as their brains in order to succeed in a world more morally ambiguous and less orderly than depicted in Victorian mysteries. An added bonus is that both authors have seen some of their works adaptated for the silver screen so you can watch Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade on DVD at the library.
Of course, I always have a preference for detective stories with strong historical elements. A good example is local author Allan Levine’s Sam Klein Mysteries series, notably “Sins of the Suffragette” and “The Bolshevik’s Revenge,” which brings 1910’s Winnipeg to life. He weaves intrigue around the issues of this period in history, including women’s rights and the Winnipeg General Strike, which adds an extra element of enjoyment for readers who enjoy historical elements in addition to a good whodunit.
In the same vein, the Murdoch Mystery series by Maureen Jennings explores the world of 1890’s Toronto, highlighting the harsh living conditions of the majority as well as describing police methods of the time.
These are only a few personal recommendations and I encourage anyone to share their own. It is after all a genre that is not lacking in quality titles.