The mystery genre is one of the most popular among today’s fiction readers. From cozies and suspense novels to detective stories and police procedurals, readers devour them and are constantly on the hunt for more. In the era of stay-at-home and social distancing, they also sometimes need a little help in identifying and borrowing titles for that next great read.
Sometimes the nominees and winners from a mystery book awards organization can be helpful, and there are several for this genre. The Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America is at the top and akin to the movie industry’s Oscar. Others include the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, Dagger, Macavity, and Shamus Awards as well as the Hammett and Hillerman Prizes.
The reading lists from mystery book discussion groups can also be helpful in identifying titles and authors that made someone’s cut. The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, ravenbookstore.com, is a perfect example and usually conducts two discussions each month. DBPL’s Mystery Club is a closer-to-home source that also has a great selection of titles to try, including those from this semester: The Ex by Alafair Burke, Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke, My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing, Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik, and The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware.
The web site stopyourekillingme.com is also a good resource for mystery readers. The main searches are organized by author and character though navigation by genre, diversity, location, etc. is also available. The real beauty of this site is the way it organizes information about authors and their works and gives structure to an otherwise large and unruly mass.
The work of prolific British author Anne Perry is a great example. She is writing or has written in seven different series, including the Christmas Mysteries that began in 2003, as well as two stand-alone titles. Her series featuring characters Thomas and Charlotte Pitt alone numbers more than thirty titles and she has over fifty other mystery works to her credit. Stopyourekillingme.com organizes this body of work by series, gives a brief description of the main character and setting for each one, provides the list of titles in the order they were written, and notes any mystery awards they were nominated for or won. The site also lists an author’s birth and death dates, their real name if they write under a pseudonym, other pseudonym’s they may have written under and a link to their web site.
With the help of these resources, readers can make a list of the titles they want to try and then hit the virtual stacks to see what is available to them in digital print and audio. This includes the DBPL-subscribed databases of Sunflower eLibrary (aka Overdrive) and Hoopla by Midwest Tape along with the State Library of Kansas’ Cloud Library, Freading eBooks, Enki eBooks and RB Digital. Amazon’s fee-based audiobook site, Audible.com, can also be a good resource particularly for the latest titles.
Use of the DBPL resources does require a borrower’s card number from our library and those from the state library may require one of their Kansas Library ecards. Patrons interested in obtaining either card can call the library at 785-238-4311 and leave a message or email firstname.lastname@example.org and a staff member will respond Monday-Friday within approximately twenty-four hours. Those experiencing difficulty in using either card can also reach out in the same manner.
I have and continue to use most of these resources in some way for my personal reading. Listening might have been a better term to use here as I am a confirmed audiobook user. With this help I have launched into the works of several authors including some who have many books to their credit and others who are relatively new and emerging.
The Father O’Malley and Vicky Holden series by Margaret Coel is a good example of the former and was on my to-read list for a long time. With twenty books in the series, stopyourekillingme gave the order in which to read them and Hoopla supplied the majority of them at no charge. Mystery Club and the awards lists introduced me to the new Casey Duncan series by Kelley Armstrong that began in 2016 and to the work of Karin Slaughter, particularly the Dr. Sara Linton/Will Trent series.
Though physical borrowing of library items is currently off the table, reading continues in the digital world. And, help to identify, pick and e-borrow what could be your new mystery fave is also available with just a few keystrokes.
2020 Edgar Aware Best First Novel Nominees
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
The Good Detective by John MaMahon
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
Three-Fifths by John Vercher
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson