Yesterday, I started the first half of this list of the best eleven mysteries I’ve ever read with books that would appeal to anyone in grade school or middle school who likes to read and solve puzzles. Things got a little ‘hinky’ in a hurry yesterday though when I divulged that my late 1970’s young teenage self had discovered Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer books at a time when my mother thought Holly Hobbie should still have been the center of my universe.
For those of you not familiar with Holly Hobbie dolls, here’s a visual:
Isn’t she sweet?
“Little House on the Prairie” was still all the rage on television then and the dolls, which had actually appeared several years before the TV show, were enjoying a resurgence because of it but, I digress.
As I grew up, so did my tastes in mystery fiction. I grew away from the childlike love of Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and, though I continued to like quick read series stuff like the novels of Sue Grafton, I grew more interested in darker mysteries, murder and more intricate plots. I also developed quite a taste for legal thrillers.
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The next two novels on my list, numbers 6 and 7 (though I can’t possibly rank one over the other), Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (1987) and A Time to Kill by John Grisham (1989) were released a couple of years apart, as I’ve noted, but I read them both in 1989 over several long nights with little sleep. They were both incredible page turners and they are the books that get all of the credit for getting me forever hooked on legal thrillers. I would go on to read every thriller either man has ever written and, in the case of John Grisham, I’ve also had the pleasure of reading several of his works that had nothing to do with crime and law. He’s one of my all time favorite all around writers.
8: I spent the late ’80s and the early ’90s devouring legal thrillers but I certainly didn’t leave more traditional murder mystery fare behind. Some time not long after it’s release in 1990, a friend who was interested in forensic science and who enjoyed watching reruns of the old television show, Quincy M. E. (Medical Examiner), turned me onto the first Patricia Cornwell Kay Scarpatta themed novel, Postmortem. I became hooked on Medical Examiner themed shows and books right along with her. That passion would not only have me reading all of Cornwell’s stuff and watching episodes of Quincy myself, but I’d also become a devotee of CSI (the Las Vegas based version only), NCIS (with Kate and with Ziva, but not since Cote De Pablo – Ziva – left the show) and the reality program, Dr. G.: Medical Examiner based on the real life cases of Orlando, Florida Medical Examiner, Dr. Jan Garavaglia.
9: In the mid 1990’s and much to my pleasure, a new series featuring a female sleuth – Stephanie Plum – appeared on the scene with the publication in 1994 of One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. Now I had two less dark but thoroughly entertaining series to keep me waiting impatiently for new installments!
10: Last, but by no means least for me is the second great book in the James Patterson series of works featuring Alex Cross, Kiss the Girls. It was released in 1995, two years after the debut of Cross in Along Came a Spider. Both are great but Kiss the Girls was the book that hooked me on the work of Patterson.
Reading all of this, you might think I stopped reading great mysteries 20 years ago. That’s far from the truth. I’ve ready hundreds since 1995 but dozens of great writers. These were the books that started it all and left a lasting impression.
What mysteries started your love of mysteries?