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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Right, I'll add some more women authors to redress the balance.

In my earlier post I mentioned Karin Fossum, Patricia Highsmith and Margaret Millar.

I will add:-

Kathy Reichs (has the ring of truth that Patricia Cornwell lacks, as she is a real life forensic anthropologist); Josephine Tey (Franchise Affair is an absolute classic); Lindsey Davies (historical crime with a light touch); Minette Walters; Donna Tartt for the Secret History; Lindsay Ashford; Donna Leon.
Many of my favourite female writers are from the Scandinavian countries:

Karin Alvtegen
Karin Fossum
Asa Larsson

are some examples.

From France, Fred Vargas is an absolute standout (and she is female :) )

From New Zealand / New York - Chris Niles is well worth reading as well - her Hell's Kitchen is a tremendous book.


From the UK one who constantly astounds me is Louise Welsh - the sense of place alone in her books is breathtaking.

And locally, on the comic side of the equation - Leigh Redhead:


Her third book "Cherry Pie" is due out here soon.
I oppose "must reads" on principle. I prefer wisely directed suggestions.

In any case, has anyone got around to mentioning Ruth Rendell? I've read just one of her novels, The Veiled One, and, while its brand of psychological crime story is not generally my cup o'blood, its opening chapter has one of the most daring and surprising extended pieces of descriptive writing I have ever read.



Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
I think Bill Pronzini has to be added to this discussion. I can't think of how many P.I. series since the '70's owe a debt to Pronzini's Nameless novels.

For short stories? Ed Gorman.

I'd second many of the excellent suggestions you've received already. I'll also add the great Bill James to the list. Here's what John Harvey once wrote about him:

"Bill James's Harpur and Iles books are deliciously un-savoury: a brilliant combination of almost Jacobean savagery and sexual betrayal with a tart comedy of contemporary manners."

Here's a list of James' Harpur and Iles novels: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/j/bill-james/ I especially recommend numbers 7 through 16 on the list. I can't imagine that there has ever been a better prose stylist writing crime fiction in English.
Mr Harvey forgot to add "weird".

I think I'm developing a speciality in weird recently (John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In was truly really utterly magnificently hypnotically weird).

So I love Harpur and Iles - thanks for mentioning Bill James here.
Well, Iles is weird. The rest are, at most, eccentric. Lindqvist sounds worth checking out. I mean, if you like Bill James, you have good taste. And if Lindqvist is weird like Bill James is weird, than I'kk have high expectations of Lindqvist. OK, the psychologist in Kill Me is also weird.

In re James, I am happy to see he appears to be making a comeback. I thought the series slumped a bit after Naked at the WIndow, but each of the novels since The Girl WIth the Long Back has been a bit better than the one before, I thought. I haven't yet read Girls, but I have a feeling that a couple of the selections in The Sixth Man and Other Stories are really excerpts from Girls, and they are quite good.



Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
Somebody else, somewhere, once in my vague memory, mentioned that the middle of the series had slumped a bit, and I have to agree, they seemed to lose a bit of focus or something.

I think it's a series that does benefit from reading in order though - dipping in can lead to a wild albeit enjoyable ride, but some of the character development is better in context.
Karen: The series has been going on long enough (23 novels, one collection of stories) that "middle" can mean different things to different people. I think of the middle of the series as numbers 7 though 16, Astride a Grave through Eton Crop (I've read most of those several times each), and I think of them as high points in crime fiction and in social comedy. James is also the best prose stylist I have ever read in crime fiction. He is just such a pleasure to read that I can well imagine someone who does not otherwise read crime fiction enjoying him on stylistic grounds alone.

I was forced to read the series out of order. A friendly bookshop proprietor suggested Roses, Roses (yes, I remember what I was doing when I was introduced to Billl James about five years ago, and then I read whichever books I could get my hands on until about three or four years ago, when I started reading new ones as they appeared. But yes, the development of Ralph Ember, say, and of Sarah Iles' affairs may come across better with consecutive reading.

It has been a puzzle to me why James is not more widely read than he is.



Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
I suspect it's just lack of chat / publicity about the books.

I have no idea how I found the first book of his that I read, but I suspect it was just in a haul from a Secondhand Bookstore, picked up on the basis that something in the blurb sort of appealed. I know it sat on my shelves here for quite a while until I happened upon it again and from then, I was hooked and thus began the quest to acquire his books (I love a quest) :)
I love a quest, too. It's why I am sometimes disappointed when the quest comes to an end, and I have found all the books in a series (now I'm doing it with the Wyatt novels.) . When that happens, it's time to start re-reading -- the cycle begins anew, and all.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
Since you asked for "contemporary" authors, here's my list:

Mystery: BASKET CASE by Carl Hiassen

Thriller: THE JANISSARY TREE by Jason Goodwin

Noir: (What does this even mean anymore? The phrase has been so utterly diluted as to be nearly ubiquitous) THE SONG IS YOU by Megan Abbott




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