Continuing this week’s important discussion on diversity in the mystery genre, the Chicks are recommending our favorite books/series by authors who are of color and/or LGBTQ.
There are so many authors I love, including Gigi Pandian, Steph Cha, Naomi Hirahara, Sunjata Massey, Kyra Davis and Carolyn Wilkins. Since we don’t have all day, I’ll stick with a few authors coming out this year. At the top of my TBR pile is Danny Gardner’s A Negro and an Ofay, which Lori Rader-Day describes as “ long lost Raymond Chandler” and the Mystery Bookshop cozy series by VM Burns. I’m totally in love with Detective Lou Norton from Rachel Howzell Hall. Lou is a black woman detective in her native Los Angeles and Rachel isn’t afraid to take on serious, sometime uncomfortable topics. In Skies of Ash, out August 8, her investigation into a murder of a 73-year-old black man leads her to a megachurch. I just love the way Rachel puts words on a page and the nuance and care she puts into making Lou seem like a real person, not a caricature of either a police officer or a black woman.
Author Alexia Gordon won the Lefty, and was nominated for an Agatha award, for Best First Novel. (And in her spare time she’s a physician!) As a guest on Chicks on the Case and through her Facebook posts, I already knew her to be funny and charming. And then I read a review that described Murder in G Major (A Gethsemane Brown Mystery) as a mash-up of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” and “Murder She Wrote.” I promptly downloaded the book to my Kindle. With all her well-earned accolades you don’t really need my recommendation to run out and buy Alexia’s books. But, you have it. Murder in G Major was a fun and fast-paced read, with a nicely conceived mystery. Gethsemane Brown is a smart, funny and engaging character I’d like to spend more time with.
I have to go old school on this and say my favorite diverse author is Walter Mosley. I was introduced to him through the movie version of Devil in a Blue Dress. I went to see the film for three reasons: 1) I love mysteries; 2) I had a passing acquaintance with Tom Sizemore, one of the actors in the film, and 3) I had a gi-normous crush on Denzel Washington. I liked the movie so much that I wanted more stories about Easy Rawlins, which I found at the library. He’s such a great character and Mosley does a brilliant job of painting his world.
Recently, I’ve become hooked on an up-and-coming writer of color. I was lucky enough to read a draft of her first mystery, which officially launches on August 8th. I can’t wait to continue reading the witty, engaging adventures of Detective by Day Dayna Anderson.
I met fellow debut author Kameel Nasr at New England Crime Bake in November 2015. We bought each other’s books (mine the lighthearted, double-female-sleuth-uber-cozy Cardiac Arrest, bless his heart) and became Facebook friends. Kameel, who now lives in the Boston area, was born in Beirut, Lebanon and is quite the global Renaissance man. Here’s a link to the bio on his Amazon author page because his accomplishments and interests are simply too numerous to list in this short space. Anyway, his first book The Museum Heist: A Tale of Art and Obsession is a fascinating mystery based on the spectacular and dumbfoundingly successful Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in Boston in 1990, in which the guards were bound and duct-taped and priceless paintings were crudely cut from their frames. The pieces have never been found, although there have been many fruitless leads and rumors as to what exactly happened that bleak day after Saint Patrick’s Day. THE MUSEUM HEIST is a fascinating book, told from an unusual point of view, and I really learned a lot about art, music, and even Classical mythology. And hey, who isn’t a sucker for a mystery based on a long-cold case? Kameel’s second mystery is The Symphony Heist: A Tale of Music and Desire, featuring the Boston Symphony Orchestra–check that one out, too!
Two books from a mystery course I taught recently are Gertrude Stein‘s Blood on the Dining-Room Floor: A Murder Mystery and Frankie Bailey‘s The Red Queen Dies: A Mystery (Detective Hannah McCabe series). Stein takes on the very notion of what makes a mystery a mystery…in fact, once you’ve completed it, you may ask yourself whether you’ve actually read a mystery or not, regardless of what the title says. But that’s one reason it is so interesting (not to mention the fact that Lizzie Borden is invoked throughout). It’s definitely a challenging read–as is usually the case with Stein–but it’s fascinating. Bailey’s police procedural uses futuristic elements and fairy tales in engaging ways and offers a complex, intriguing plot. Like Stein’s mystery, it operates on a lot of levels at once. Plus, Hannah McCabe is a compelling character–I can easily imagine this series on film (Hollywood, are you listening?).
I’d like to give a shoutout to Ms. Leslie Karst, who writes the Sally Solari mystery series. Leslie puts the “L” in LGBT, and I had the good fortune to visit her and her lovely wife Robin in their home in Hilo, Hawaii, earlier this year. Her books are smart, sassy and funny as heck — just like her. And her main character’s best friend from law school is a lesbian — just like her. Leslie herself is a fascinating character, and you’ll get to learn more about her next Wednesday on the blog. In the meantime, there’s another writer I keep hearing about named Kellye Garrett. Odds are pretty good that you’re going to be hearing a little bit more about her next week, too!
Have you read any of these authors? What’s your favorite books of theirs? Any you now plan to check out? Drop us a note below!
And as a reminder, you can find even more amazing authors on Frankie’s List: http://www.sistersincrime.org/page/FrankiesList.
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