Reading the Detectives

I don’t really like putting labels on books, and one of the genres that I find the most difficult to pin down is that of ‘detective’ fiction. I mean, does it have to have an actual detective, or can it include a sleuth of another persuasion–a Miss Marple, if you will? Does  a book in which an ordinary citizen solves a crime count as a detective story? Not to mention all the related genres, from crime fiction to thrillers to mysteries; are the distinctions between them really significant or are these just labels we slap on to sell more books?

Anyway. I’ve been reading two new series this past week that to me both qualify as detective stories, in that they feature a crime and a central character who tries to solve it. Although they are each different in style and setting, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first books in each series and wanted to share them for anyone looking for a good read.

killing-in-the-hillsA Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

Bell Elkins is a county prosecutor living in the small West Virginia town of Acker’s Gap. The divorced mother of a sullen teenage daughter, Bell has her hands full both at home and at work, where she joins forces with the local sheriff as they try to keep the expanding local drug trade from destroying everything they love about their hometown.

I like the character of Bell, who is both brilliant and headstrong, but it’s the strong sense of place that really drew me in and made me want to read more of this series. I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachians in an rural area with a lot of poverty, and so Raythune County and its problems seemed very real and relatable to me.

cuckoos-callingThe Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Yes, this is the book that J. K. Rowling published under a pen name, causing a bit of an outrage in certain circles. I personally don’t care that she didn’t reveal her identity right away, although it seems a bit unfair to those who reviewed the book without knowing it was hers (reading excerpts from those reviews made me feel like she was having a bit of a laugh at the reviewers’ expense, however inadvertently). Nevertheless, it’s a good book, and the more classic example of a detective story between the two books mentioned here. Cormoran Strike, the main character, is an ex-Army man turned P.I. who struggles to pay his bills despite having a very famous father. I managed to guess the identify of the killer and their motivation before Strike reveals them, but otherwise the book kept me well entertained and wanting to get to know the characters better.

And now, because it will be stuck in my head for the rest of the day so I might as well indulge myself:

Hope you’re all enjoying this post-Fourth of July Sunday!


3 thoughts on “Reading the Detectives

  1. Care

    ha ha! great song! I can’t even think of the last ‘detective’ novel I’ve read. Guess I’m not into this ‘genre’ though I don’t dislike. I just don’t seem to read much crime or ones that follow the sleuth. Just looking at my recently read list and I guess I would have to say the last one was Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King! Would that be right?

    1. Too Fond Post author

      I haven’t read much Stephen King, so I’m not sure if that one is a detective novel but to me it’s basically any kind of mystery that you can try to solve along with the main character. Like Sherlock Holmes.

  2. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    I listened to The Cuckoo’s Calling awhile back just because it was a Rowling book, and I thought it was pretty good. I didn’t put it all together — I think because on audio it was hard to go back and check on clues while the story was going — but thought it was entertaining anyway. I tend to like nonfiction detective stories, but it’s good to branch out too 🙂


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