Branching Out Into New Territory

This is a “what drivel is Bear reading” post. No WoW. Move along!

One of the genres of fiction I really enjoy is the thriller. The suspenseful police procedural, the mystery, the counter-espionage, the spy versus spy, the cat and mouse hunt for a killer.

I prefer them with a strong undercurrent of black comedy.

Some of my favorite series are the Prey novels by John Sandford (and his LuEllen and Kit books too), the Scudder books by Lawrance Block (damn those are good), the intertwining series of books by Stephen Hunter that, generally, follows the lives of two generations of the Swagger family, Earl Swagger and his son Bob Lee Swagger (those are extremely good, I’d start chronologically if you’re interested, really, it may seem Bob Lee Swagger, “Bob the Nailer”, is the event to be anticipated, what with a movie based on one of his books, Point of Impact, but the books featuring Earl Swagger are, to my mind, far more interesting), and finally my favorites, the Reacher books by Lee Childs.

Every single one a stellar, knockout series of books to read.

I want more!

But there aren’t any right now.

I’ve re-read them all so many times I’ve worn tracks of words across my mind’s eye. I’m actually re-reading the Kildar series by John Ringo, and skipping past all the S&M bits, just to have something to read that’s got that black sense of humor and some action. Sadly, as good as the action is, it’s more of a series like Mack Bolan The Executioner, Able Team or Phoenix Force than it is Shadow Prey. Lots of great combat scenes and strategizing, not so much on the suspense. You kinda go in knowing not only who did it, but who’s gonna get revenge, and what they’re gonna use to do it.

Entertaining, but I want a solid mystery.

As I stood in the library today, trying to find something to read, searching the mystery shelves forlornly when what I really want are more Davenport, Reacher, Scudder or Swagger stories, Cassie suggested I try something…. new.

She suggested I try Patricia Cornwell’s series about a forensic investigator, Dr. Kay Scarpetta.


This suggestion made me darn nervous. I don’t know anything at all about Patricia Cornwell. Plus, Cassie doesn’t read any of my mysteries. If she likes these, but doesn’t like mine, will I like them?


Well, on the bright side, trying a new author is better than huffing paint on a rainy day. What’s the worst that will happen, I have to go back to the Kildar?

Aw, shucks.

So, I went to three different libraries in our system, but I managed to grab the first seven books in published order. I believe in starting from the very beginning if you’re gonna get into something, and letting the story unfold and the characters develop the way the author wrote it, instead of leaping into the middle.

So, I’ve got;

  1. Postmortem
  2. Body of Evidence
  3. All that Remains
  4. Cruel and Unusual
  5. The Body Farm
  6. From Potters Field
  7. Cause of Death
  8. Unnatural Exposure

All sitting on my desk to read through.

I’m willing to go that far in case the first few don’t really set fire, but it gathers steam later on.

If these turn out great reads, there are lots more in the series as well.


You know, it must be hell being a really popular author, because it doesn’t matter how recently your last book came out, somebody like me is sitting there saying, “Yeah, so that was good, but when’s your NEXT book coming out?”

Wish me luck, I’m hoping for the best!

45 thoughts on “Branching Out Into New Territory

  1. Both in your initial post and in the subsequent comments, I’ve seen a lot of authors/characters that I enjoy. My buddy (who is way more into books than I, and that’s saying a lot) recently made a recommendation that I think you and others will really enjoy. The Burke series by Andrew Vachss. I’ve only read the first one, Flood, but it was quite awesome. Lots of grit, imaginative characters, very good writing, and definitely a dark humor.


  2. Really got to throw my hat in the ring here with The Retrieval Artist Series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Where Harry Dresden is PI meets wizard, this series is kinda like PI meets Sci Fi. Seven books so far starting with ‘The Disappeared’.

    I highly recommend that you give it a read if you can find them.


  3. Ooooh, Mack Bolan is a blast from the past… I might see if I can pick some of those up again – it’s been approaching a couple of decades since I read them, and I could do with something not too intellectually demanding for a change (I tend to think of them as the masculine equivalent of pulp romance novels).


    • If you can find it, the Mack Bolan book “The Trial” is hilarious.

      Mack Bolan is captured by some small rural town in texas… and every law enforcement agency in the world starts flying in to begin extradiction proceedings, while all the bad guys start circling hoping to finally take him down now that he;s locked down in one place.

      Meanwhile… well, Mack Bolan in court is about as funny as you’d expect.


  4. BBB….kind of off topic, but since you like a bit of black comedy mixed in with your fantasy and others…. have you checked out the Malazan Book of the Fallen series yet by Steven Erikson? Excellent series, with enough content to keep even you happy!


  5. My mum went through a Patricia Cornwell phase and has all her Kay Scarpetta books. At the time, she was the only crime author who went into excruciating detail about the crime scenes and bodies, which was a nice change, but gets kind of old quick.


    • Cassie mentioned that to me, but I don’t mind the gory descriptions myself. I don’t particularly like it, but it’s not all that bad… unless it’s on TV and my son might see it. I don’t need him seeing the dissection of a corpse’s skull at the age of 7, thank you. Maybe that makes me overprotective as a parent, but hey.

      No, what caused me to stop watching CSI in the first place wasn’t the gore, it was how after the first few seasons, it seemed like they couldn’t figure out how to go for drama and a gut wrenching episode unless it was horrible torture and death happening to little kids. Episode after episode it was, “Let’s see how CSI chose to kill kids this time.” I got flat out sick of it, and have never gone back. And pardon my french, but if that’s where the writers feel they need to go over and over to make an emotional impact, then fuck them.

      Oh look, a hot button!


  6. Most anything by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are really good.

    The combo novels where they right together are VERY good (Relic, Reliquary, and about 5 others). They follow the antics of a FBI agent and his Police detective friend. Lots of research goes into each novel so they never feel formulaic and are full of description.

    I’d also try Greg Isles. He’s not an extremely prolific writer – all of his books are HUGE 700+ pages and he takes his time. But, they’re very adult in their subject matter for the most part.


    • You know, I’ve looked at Lincoln Chiild’s books a lot, since they’re right next to Lee Child, and haven’t picked any up yet. You liked them? They’re pretty good?


    • I know what you mean, he seems to handle fantasy settings better than sci-fi. His new one “Ghost of a Chance” left me feeling kind of flat, but the Nightside series is still purring along nicely. Like a big, spiky, blood-crazed purring thing.


  7. Simon R. Green and the fantasy series about the city Guard Captains of Haven, Hawk and his wife, Isobel Fisher. Also the Forest Kingdom series of books, the first three, anyway – Blue Moon Rising, Blood and Honour, and Down Amongst the Dead Men – I’d recommend reading these three before Hawk and Fisher, to be honest, gives you three different entries into the world before you settle into the cesspit of Haven, and in the world chronology, the Forest Kingdom comes first. Final volume (?) Beyond the Blue Moon is chronologically last and does have the odd mention of things in Haven, so avoid that til you’re done with Hawk and Fisher if you want to avoid any spoilerage.

    Thoroughly enjoyed them. My recommended reading order does mean you have to wait a bit before you get into the mysteries side of it, so if you want, you can treat the two as separate series – but in that case, just stay away from Beyond the Blue Moon. Which I’m going to have to go re-read now.

    I’d read some of these before getting married, and they sat on the shelf, I picked up more of the series, read more, then one day, I left Blue Moon Rising lying around, and the husband got grumpy that I’d not introduced him to the farting dragon earlier 🙂

    Best wishes!


    • I have the Hawk and Fisher series on my shelf… Blue Moon Rising, the 6 Hawk and Fisher in Haven books in the middle and then Beyond the Blue Moon. Darn good books, I picked the series up with the first Hawk and Fisher in Haven book, and went back to Blue Moon Rising on the recommendation of a reader a long time ago. Very good.


  8. Not fantasy or mystery, but my favorite series ever: Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin “Master and Commander” series. 20 books. It takes maybe the first three to really get into them (though the third is superb, in my opinion) and a little side research into the anatomy and rigging of a man-of-war, but once you’re there, the various adventures of these odd couple best friends is ridiculously compelling. Plus, cannons and ship-to-ship action are AWESOME, and the writing is very well done – like Jane Austen for guys.


  9. REACHER! This guy, Jack Reacher, was mentioned in a Stephen King novel and I’d heard about the “Reacher Books” from friends. When I got my Kindle, I got the first book in the series. Holy smokes I love that stuff! Plowed through all of them and now I’m with ya waiting for more.


  10. More crime than thrillers, but it’s hard to go past Don Winslow and Elmore Leonard. Amazing writers. My favourite SF writer of all time is Charles Stross, “Accelerando” is mind boggling and available as a freebie these days. MMO players should enjoy “Halting State”, and the “The Laundry” series blends James Bond, computing, and Lovecraft. Who doesn’t love that?

    On a fiction related point, check out The author of this site likes science in his science fiction, and has created a resource to help with that.


  11. hmmm this is going to be a bit of a case of ‘odd one out’. Can’t stand Cornwall … but then I tend to lean towards sci-fi, fantasy escapist Discworld type material. The Stephanie Plum books are quite funny perhaps because I can imagine someone like Stephanie. I’ve enjoyed a set by Joe Abercrombie – book one is called The Blade Itself. Lian Hearn’s series Tales of the Otori is also a different read although not much comedy in there and one by Stephen Baxter called Coalescent which leaves me with a case of the chills each time I read it.


  12. If you like a mystery novel and enjoy an adult atmosphere for vamipirism and associated oddities, try Kim Harrison’s series The Hollows.

    Basic idea: instead of getting into nuke, humans got into biological engineering. In the 1960s they were fiddling with foods to improve crop yields, and accidentally incorporated a deadly virus into a tomato plant distributed world-wide. Kills about half the population. The world — or at least the more developed countries — are kept from descending into total chaos when the assorted non-humans known as Inderlanders realize they are now about equal population, reveal their existence and step in to help. So, vampires, witches, pixies, leprechauns, weres, banshees are now semi-integrated into human society. Take a screwed-up redhead former supernatural cop turned bounty-hunter, paired with an equally-but-differently-screwed-up living vampire in a private investigation firm, then add normal human drama.

    Damn good series; characters feel real despite the fantasy aspect.

    As a bonus, all the titles are variants on Clint Eastwood films:


  13. The Scarpetta books are good mysteries, but they do get a little formulaic.
    Try Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, they definitely have more of a senses of humor to them (without becoming comedies)


  14. Check out the Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. It’s billed as “young adult”, but really, really good.

    Sharon Kay Penman’s historical fiction, and Bernard Cornwell’s too…

    Also, and I struggle a bit to admit this, the Charlene Harris vampire books that True Blood on HBO is based on are a lot of fun.

    I’ll definitely take some of your recommendations, always looking for more good stuff to read.


  15. Have you read Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series yet? Right now it’s just two (MH International and MH: Vendetta) with a third on the way, plus Correia has a few other series he’s working on right now (including a collaboration with John Ringo for next year). You’d like them based on your list above (which could have been copied off my nook!).


    • I heard the movie they made from Mystic River was really good, and I’ve liked the Boston area when I’ve vistied there… aside from the idiot drivers when the Dig project was still going on. I’ll have to check those out.


  16. The Dresden Files are a very good read indeed. If you liked them, they also had a short-lived series on TV.

    The Garrett PI series is alright, though they seemed to get predictable.

    Since you don’t seem to mind re-reading books, why not go through the Discworld series again? I’ve seen you quote from some of the books before.
    There’s a newish book out from in the Tiffany Aching/Wee Free Men series.


    • I’ve memorized the Discworld books. I have to give myself at least another three months before I’ll be able to re-read those. And maybe buy some more copies to replace ones I’ve worn out!


      • I’ve loved your blog ever since a friend put me onto it, but seeing that you were a fellow Pratchett fan puts you in a new league of awesome:-)

        I stumbled across a newish author in my public library a few days ago, another Brit, by the name of Toby Frost. His setting is sci-fi with a weakness for appalling puns and a generally high Silliness Factor. He’s young and only just hitting his stride – it’ll be some time before he’s as good as Pratchett – but anyone who can get away with a title like “Wrath of the Lemming Men” gets my seal of approval.


  17. If you like investegative books I would like to recommend a serie by Kyle Mills about a FBI investegator. So far I have found 3 books about him and they should be read in the following order (just a remondation) Rising Phoenix, Storming Heaven and Sphere of Influence. I find them very well written and humours.


    • Will do! Thankfully, I can just go to my library system in Ramsey county online, and request all of these books if they’re in the system to be held at one library for pickup. 🙂


  18. Since you liked The Dresden Files its worth mentioning that Jim Butcher kind of took the works of Robert B Parker (The Spencer series) and Glen Cook (Garett PI series) and smooshed them together. I’m a big fan of Parker’s Spencer series and there are enough books out to keep you entertained for a while (easily found at any used book store) Additionally Glen Cook’s The Black Company series seems to be up your alley if you haven’t already read them.


    • I’ve read all of the Black Company books, and they really kicked ass. Serious ass. I’ve never bloody heard of the Garett PI series. Thank you!


  19. Also, all of the Michael Connolly books involving Harry Bosch from “The Poet” onwards. All very well written and nicely dark. 🙂


    • I actually read all of those as well, well, I read up to the one after ‘The Closers”, I think it was. They got a little difficult for me, the plot line with his boss that clenches his jaws so tight that he has to have new teeth done every few months, but I like the character Harry a lot. Those were some excellent plots, very tight.


    • I agree with Siobhann… LOVED Cornwell for years, but her recent books have gotten pretty dull for me.

      Not a mystery, but definitely worth a read: Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling. It’s based in modern times, but explores what happens when all internal combustion (engines, guns, etc) just stops working one day. Kind of a sci-fi/fantasy, and a pretty great read! There are … um… 5? books in the series now. Give them a try. 🙂


  20. Just wondering if you’ve read the Jim Butcher Dresden series yet? If you haven’t, it’s about a wizard who openly practices as a PI in Chicago & the problems he runs into (real world and supernatural). If you have, OMG!!!, the newest isn’t out till April & I can’t wait!!!!!


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