Monday, November 10, 2014

Jazz Up Your Mystery/Thriller Reading with Chris

Please welcome Chris of Wildmoobooks to Book Bloggers Intl.!

Do you love mysteries and thrillers but feel a bit burnt out by them, as if you’re reading the same book with a different setting over and over? Or have you read all your favorite series and now wait around for the next release, randomly picking up other books like filler? Or have you never really read much in the genre and want to start, but don’t know where?

Try alternating a new release with a classic or significant back list title. Mix it up further by cycling in subgenres that you haven’t yet tried: cozy, hard boiled, medical, legal, western, LGBT, espionage, supernatural, etc.

The beauty of reading this way is that you stay in touch with what’s current, yet learn about the history of the genre and subgenres. You’ll expose yourself to new-to-you authors and may discover that a subgenre you’ve avoided actually interests you. Through reading older titles you’ll come to have a deeper appreciation for newer releases because you’ll understand the tradition from which they’ve grown. You’ll be able to see when a new release does something original. Or how, perhaps, it fails to live up to the demands of the genre or subgenre.

This approach works well for independent reading or for book groups. I used it in a past book group and my current group is using it. This month we read Tana French’s new release, The Secret Place. Next month we’re going back to 1868 for The Moonstone by Willie Collins which is considered the first mystery novel. After that we’ll read Still Life by Louise Penny (2006) and then Cover Her Face by P.D. James (1962). We’ll discuss the merits and pitfalls of each novel in and of itself (the mystery, plot, characters, etc), and then also discuss which subgenre(s) it fits into and how well.

There is no right or wrong to reading this way.

But crime fiction is such a huge category, so where to begin? Your local librarian can certainly point you in the right direction. Or a simple internet search for “mystery subgenres” or “history of mystery” will pull up helpful information from which you can begin creating your own reading list. There are even books and lists of the top 50 or 100 mystery/thrillers everyone should read.

Another option is to check out the websites of organizations like The Mystery Writers of America, the Crime Writers’ Association, or International Thriller Writers. Compare their lists of award winning books. Look at the Agatha Award list for the best cozies or the Shamus Award list for the best PI novels.

After a while you see the same titles showing up across various lists and will feel the need to read that book.

If you enjoy audiobooks there’s a course from The Modern Scholar series that your library may carry or be able to get for you called Detective Fiction: From Victorian Sleuths to the Present by Professor M. Lee Alexander which explores the origins of the genre, significant eras, subgenres, and trends. You can download the course booklet from the website linked above. It’s an excellent resource.

I hope this method jazzes up your mystery/thriller reading or gets you started. I’d love hear about what strategy you use to read around in this vast and diverse genre.

11 comments :

  1. I looove thrillers (I know, you'd never guess looking at my blog...) and I'm so glad I started reading through the ITW list of 100 must-reads. Not all of them have lived up to that title, for me, but I've also read some great older books I might never have read otherwise. Rebecca, Strangers on a Train, and Eye of the Needle immediately come to mind as classics that I loved, and first picked up because of this list.

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    1. In an ITW interview David Morrell mentioned looking at Dracula as the first serial killer novel if you take out the supernatural bits. I love that! I've been meaning to give Rebecca another chance. I tried it years ago and it wasn't the right time.

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  2. another way would be to read thrillers translated from other languages, there are some really good ones from the French and the Japanese for sure

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    1. That's a great suggestion! And what an interesting way to learn about another country...looking at how a mystery is approached or how a thriller situation is handled.

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    2. I love this idea too, I love mysteries and reading about different countries (I am one of the co-hosts for tge Travel the World in Books reading challenge). Do you have specific recommendations of mysteries from French or Japanese authors?

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  3. Great post and tips, Chris. Thank you for sharing today!

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  4. I have been wanting to get back into reading mysteries. I read a couple current releases but do love going back to the classics like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie.

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    1. Me, too, Tanya. I just read The Moonstone and loved it. I've only read two Agatha Christie novels, but recently snapped up a few more at library sales.

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  5. GREAT suggestions Chris!! I love mixing things up, but didn't even think about purposefully doing it for a book group. I love that idea!

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    1. Thanks! The new book group I'm in loves reading mysteries this way.

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