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.
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.
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!