Gateway Drugs: The Mystery Edition

door opening onto poppiesI like mysteries, but not for the usual reasons.  I usually don’t care that much about whodunnit.  What I enjoy about mysteries is that the format allows you, the reader, to get a cutaway view of life in an unusual time or place.  If you want to try out the mystery genre, here’s a variety of settings and styles plus a couple of classics to get you going.  Prepare for your voyage to:

Saudi Arabia

Finding Nouf, City of Veils, and Kingdom of Strangers:  by Zoe Ferraris.

This trilogy follows two fascinating detectives.  Nayir ash-Sharqi is a desert guide and tracker.  He is deeply devout.  Katya Hijazi is a lab worker attempting to build a career in a patriarchal society.  The mysteries in these three novels are compelling, but the layered, conflicted, complex, and deeply sympathetic characters and their struggles to navigate a complex society are absolutely riveting.

Cover of Finding Nouf

Victorian England

The Face of a Stranger:  by Anne Perry

This is the first book in the “Monk Series”.  It introduces the character of William Monk (no relation to TV show Monk, which came later).  Monk is a police detective in London who has lost his memory (or portions of his memory).  He works with Hester Latterly, a nurse who served in the Crimean War under Florence Nightingale.  Hester is a compelling character – prickly but compassionate, and constantly frustrated in her efforts to bring the reforms Florence Nightingale instituted in the Crimea to the London hospital.  It’s also fascinating to see Victorian life from so many vantage points – servants, the aristocracy, professionals of both high and low regard.

Cover of Face of a Stranger

Los Angeles in the late 1940’s – late 1960’s

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosely

This is the first book in the “Easy Rawlins” series, which describes the life of a black man who becomes a private detective in L.A.  The first book takes place in 1948 and the last in 1967.  This series has a unique voice and viewpoint.  The mysteries are convoluted and suspenseful, but what interests me most is the glimpses of daily life from the point of a black man during a turbulent period in history.

cover of Devil in a Blue Dress

And for adventures in different genres and styles try:


Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Speculative Fiction:

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde


Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich

Note:  I realize you might want to start with the first book, One for the Money, but it has a sequence of such sadistic violence that it soured the whole book.  So if you are purely looking for laughs, try the second book instead.

For Kids:  Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys – they were good back in the day, and they’re still good now!

And let’s not forget…..

The Classics!

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Dame Agatha Christie

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

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