Okay, say someone hasn't read a lot in the mystery/thriller/noir genre(s) and has asked you for recommendations? Who are the must-reads in each of those sub-genres and why? If they're "classic masters" that's fine, but I'd love to see a list of who you all think are the contemporary best-of-the-genre as well.

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Dusty, your check is in the mail.

One book I'd add to the list is FIRST BLOOD by David Morrell. Forget the Stallone movie. Forget the sequels. Forget the forthcoming installment. Pick up the original and strap yourself in for a brutal ride with amazing writing throughout.
I'd say anything by Ken Bruen. His work is classic, brilliant, haunting (Jack Taylor) and always on the edge. I just finished THE HACKMAN BLUES and I'm still laughing at some of the lines (You come. And then you go. If you've read it you get it.) Ken is the whole package - the amazing lyrical writing, and the storylines. The insights on life are sharp and sometimes beautifully cruel, they hit you right between the eyes. My shade of dark, through and through.

And as the self-confessed lover of British procedurals, let me add Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, Denise Mina... For the hardboiled Al Guthrie's already been mentioned, and I love Simon Kernick's stuff as well. I have been told I must read Ray Banks and assured by someone I trust (RDM) that I will love his stuff, but I'm not sure if you can get it in Canada.

A note on my recommendations though. Stuart MacBride is the king of inserting backstory in a way that moves the book forward instead of making chunks lag. Exceptional talent. This is a writer I think has every potential of being the future Val McDermid for the market, in that I think he'll match her level of success, and deservedly so.

And Rankin has written a series that is celebrating its 20th year, and you don't get to that point and sell 17 million + books worldwide without a damn good reason. The writing is mesmerizing and over time he's moved from strength to strength, though I'm a big fan of his early work as well (The Flood is a must read, IMHO). When I read those books I am completely there. I don't know how else to put it - the way you get to view Scotland and contemporary issues through Rebus's eyes and the superb writing all works together for me, to make books I can't put down. I'm not a person who reads fast, nor can I sit still to read for several hours on end usually, but I have never been able to put those books down.
Excellen suggestions... if you had to tell someone which Ken Bruen to start with, which would you choose? Same with Ian?
Oh boy. To some degree, this would be tailored to the person.

With Ken, The Guards is haunting, brilliant, and launches the Jack Taylor series. But the Brant series, which start with The White Trilogy (which I haven't read yet, but I've read later books) are fun, fast-paced, Brant a somewhat loveably scuzzy character. When it comes to the standalone stuff, American Skin (the latest) is a phenomenal novel, but perhaps too dark for some people. If you can handle toddler roadkill you'll be fine. It's the way the storylines are intertwined that makes it genius.

If pressed to choose I'll say The Guards. But arguments could be made in all directions. There was a big uproar over HACKMAN BLUES, and some people tried to have the book banned in the UK. I honestly haven't a clue what their problem was - it's a fantastic book. But The Guards won the Shamus and was nominated for an Edgar, losing out to Rankin.

With Ian... I bear in mind that Ian started writing Rebus in the 80s and you will see a progression through the series. The books get fatter, more plotlines, etc. If someone is keen on a series and wants to really sink their teeth into it, I sometimes suggest starting at The Black Book (book 5) and reading from there. If you want a taste of Rebus to decide if he's for you and don't mind reading out of order people often suggest Black & Blue (which was his breakout book, winner of the Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year). Ian's stated many times it's his own favourite, and he wrote it just after his second son was born, with Angelman's Syndrome, so he vented all his emotion about that into the book. Not a light read by any stretch.

I can make arguments for so many as favourites. I think The Black Book was one of the most underrated in the series. Mortal Causes (book 6) was the book that gave me an idea that became a short story (The Butcher - Crimespree Magazine Issue #13). My first Rebus was The Falls (book 12) and I was instantly hooked. The Hanging Garden (book 9), which is the book immediately following Black & Blue, is every bit as gripping as B&B in my opinion.

And my personal favourite is probably still A Question of Blood (book 14). After The Falls I went to the very beginning and read all the way through the series and when I got to AQOB I could actually predict some of the dialogue... it was just dead on. One of few books I've read, waited a week and then read again. And that isn't to say any others aren't good. If pressed to make a list I'd probably put The Naming of the Dead in my top picks, and that's the most recent one...

All that said, it was Resurrection Men (book 13) that won the Edgar.
THE GUARDS. Definitely.

And you know, I didn't start our hypothetical novice with Bruen becuase I thought maybe Ken's work was a little..I don't know...advanced for a non-mystery reader. But it occurs to me that if someone is coming to crime fiction from a background in "literary" fiction, Bruen might be just the place to start.
I'm partial to The White Trilogy.

Which reminds me of Philip Kerr's brilliant Berlin Noir. Oh, yes.

And did anyone mention Power of the Dog by Don Winslow?
Sandra - I thought the Garnethill trilogy was wonderful, unusual protagonist, very humane. I just couldn't get into the Paddy Meehan series - what do you think of Field of Blood?
Haven't read Field of Blood yet, but I've heard raves about it. Damn review copies stacking up and getting in the way of my 'personal' reading.
I'm interested to see that this whole discussion takes place on the other side of the aisle from mine. I'd start with Dorothy L. Sayers (Strong Poison, Murder Must Advertise, Gaudy Night would do), a little Margery Allingham (say, Tiger in the Smoke), a little Agatha Christie (one Miss Marple and one Hercule Poirot?), go on to Josephine Tey (Brat Farrar, The Franchise Affair, Miss Pym Disposes), Patricia Moyes (Murder Fantastical), Ngaio Marsh (can't remember the US title of my favorite, but the British version was A Surfeit of Lampreys), then on to Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, and I think it was about that time that Peter Dickinson was writing his brilliant mysteries (King & Joker, The Glass-Sided Ants' Nest, and again I think there was a US title I can't remember and in England it was Sleep and His Brother). P.D. James and Ruth Rendell (transcend, schmanscend--they helped define the genre). Then on to the present: Margaret Maron, Laurie R. King, Nevada Barr, Dana Stabenow, and in Britain, Reginald Hill, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (the Bill Slider books), Janet Neel (Death's Bright Angel is on my all time top ten list, among other reasons, for showing the characters' intelligence and assuming the reader's).
I wonder what I can sell around here to afford all these books...
George Pelecanos (King Suckerman, The Big Blowdown); Daniel Woodrell (The Death of Sweet Mister); Bruen (Jack Taylor books); James Sallis (Drive); Ross MacDonald (The Chill); Gregory MacDonald (Confess, Fletch); Patrcia Highsmith (Ripley Books, Strangers on a Train); Walter Mosley (Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned); Crumley (The Last Good Kiss; The Wrong Case); Hammett (Red Harvest); Scott Philips (The Ice Harvest); Thompson (The Grifters); Charles Willeford (Hoke Moseley books); Connelly (Angel Flight; The Black Ice); Lehane (Gone, Baby, Gone); Joseph Wambaugh; Leonard; Turow; le Carre; Lippman; Jenny Siler; Sara Gran; Westlake (under any name); T. Jefferson Parker; Pete Dexter; Capote (In Cold Blood); Tess Gerritsen; Swierczynski; Nelson DeMille (The Gold Coast); Graham Greene; Ellroy; Scott Smith (A Simple Plan); McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) - and that's just on my bookshelf in my den.
I prefer early Wambaugh, though I've heard good things about Hollywood Station. Anyone read it yet?

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