Obviously, we love mysteries–so much we decided to write them ourselves! To kick off the first Chicks group blog, we’re sharing our fave mystery authors and books. Check out our picks and share some of your own in the Comments section.
My all-time favorite mystery is Agatha Christie’s last published novel, Sleeping Murder. It features some familiar Christie tropes, but I don’t care. Every time I read it – and I’ve read it many times – I’m just haunted by it.
But the main reason I love it is that the most important clue in the book hinges on a quote from one of my favorite plays, The Duchess of Malfi: “Cover her face. My eyes dazzle. She died young.” John Webster wrote Duchess in the early 17th century, and it’s so dark that it makes plays like Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus look like children’s theatre. I just love how Agatha Christie updates, yet mirrors Webster’s twisted world in Sleeping Murder.
After meeting Sue Grafton at Left Coast Crime, I admit that I have a total writer crush on her, but my favorite mystery novel is Dim Sum Dead, by Jerrilyn Farmer—who I happened to meet the same day I met Sue! I love Dim Sum Dead because it was the first cozy I read that I really clicked with. Jerrilyn was a television writer (just like our own Ellen Byron!) so she knows how to write humor. A lot of cozy readers love a small town setting, but I loved that this series is set in Los Angeles. And since the main character is a caterer, she gets to go to all the best parties. My main character is a wedding planner, and I have to admit, I’ve always secretly thought that if Madeline Bean ever catered one of Kelsey McKenna’s weddings, they’d be BFFs!
I’ve known Kinsey Millhone for over 20 years now. We met when 12-year-old Kellye decided she was “too grown” to still hang with Nancy Drew and those silly Sweet Valley High twins. She simply needed to find a cooler crowd. Enter Sue Grafton (whispers…and Jackie Collins).
The thing that separates mysteries from any old book are the twists, the ones where your first thought is “WTF?,” quickly followed by “That makes perfect sense! Why didn’t I figure it out?!?” And that’s exactly what makes B is for Burglar so great. The concept is simple: Kinsey is tasked with finding a woman who disappeared a week after her neighbor died in a house fire. The way Grafton layers the story – building it up, revealing just enough – until you get to the big reveal is so freaking impressive that I find myself re-reading it every couple years and still somehow being awed each and every time.
I have to go with Mary Higgins Clark’s 1975 mystery-suspense (her first) Where are the Children? Found it in a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book while pretending to dust my dad’s bookcases and couldn’t put it down. Literally. Young mom tries to rebuild her life across the country in New England after her overturned conviction for the deaths of her two small children and her husband’s suicide. Now she has a new husband and two new children. The kids disappear—déjà vu!—and everyone thinks she’s guilty again. She’s desperate to find them, reliving the old horrors, but the reader knows a creepy guy from her past is using the kids as bait…Brr! No dust on this one.
Clark herself is a class act and role model for all mystery writers who happen to be female. Saw her at the Edgar Awards once and she was wearing a tiara. Well-deserved.