Though some mysteries are considered literary (Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist), I like my mysteries well-written but with no emotional baggage. Escapist reading? Sign me up! When I want to read serious, I head for the non-fiction aisles. When I want to relax I head for the cozy mystery series featuring a gay vampire living in a small town in England. How can you resist? That said, these are a few of my recent favorites in the silent tough guys competition.
One Shot by Lee Child
Lee Child, bless his English heart, writes one of the best hard-boiled-loner solving-problems and moving-along-owning-nothing-but-what-he-can-carry mystery series around. A sniper has killed six people. The sniper has done this before and ex-MP Jack Reacher knows it and the sniper knows Jack knows it. So why is the sniper asking for Jack’s help? If you like this one, try The Enemy, a prequel to the series that explains a bit about how Jack got to be who he is.
Bitch Creek by William Tapply
This author was all set to go on my “must check out his other books” list. But. Stoney Calhoun, the main character, has amnesia. Got out of the hospital five years ago after being hit by lightning (or was he?), remembering nothing but fleeting, hallucinatory images of his former life. Feels compelled to move to a small town in Maine. Helps out at a fishing guide business. Fellow guide gets killed. Is it related to Stoney’s past or just a coincidence? Spoiler: although he solves the mystery with skills from his forgotten life, the mystery is not linked to his past. I’m mellowing on this, but when I first finished the book, I was quite annoyed that the author set up this great background story and didn’t follow through. There have been murmurings since that this is the first book in a new series which means it’ll probably be years before we find out who Stoney was and why a mysterious man shows up every few months to check up on him and see if he’s remembered anything. Argh.
Comeback by Richard Stark
Parker is the anti-hero of anti-heroes, a sociopath who will get the crime done. After a twenty-three year absence, Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake) resurrected Parker in Comeback in 1997. Parker and companions set out to steal money from a dishonest televangelist. Something goes horribly wrong, as it usually does and Parker needs all his wits and his willingness to do whatever and whoever he needs to get the job done. The newer Parker books are a bit more mellow – he doesn’t kill everyone, just whoever gets in his way. If you want to spend more time with a cold-blooded, amoral thief (and who doesn’t?) go back and start at the beginning with The Hunter or continue on with Backflash.
Confess your escapist reading picks. What do you read when you’re not feeling very literary or serious?