It's January, which means everyone is busy announcing their new releases for 2019, and my to-read list is getting longer than ever. In 2019, I'm looking forward to reading new installments in Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache, Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell, Genevieve Cogman's Invisible Library, and Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series.
Every once in a while, I like to pick a mystery writer and read all of their books in order. I learn a lot about writing this way. In some cases, you can actually watch the writer’s storytelling abilities evolve from book to book.
Louise Penny’s storytelling skills were clearly already fully fledged by the time her first Inspector Gamache mystery, Still Life, was published, but I’m enjoying reading her books in order anyway. She has a lot to teach me about how to realistically portray human foibles, emotions, and relationships over time, and I’m looking forward to my next lessons.
For those of you who haven’t read Louise Penny yet, her books follow Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team as they investigate various homicides in rural Québec. Most, although not all, of the mysteries are set at least partially in Three Pines, a cozy rural hamlet just south of Montreal with an exceptionally high murder rate.
I truly love a Deanna Raybourn mystery. Her Lady Julia Grey series remains one of my favorite mystery series of all time. I would love for more Lady Julia Grey books to pop up in the future, but in the meantime, I’ve found Raybourn’s latest heroine, Veronica Speedwell, to be good company as well.
Set in London in the late 1880s, the series follows Speedwell—an avid butterfly collector with a loudly stated preference for men who don’t live in England—and Stoker—a reclusive, bad-tempered, and sadly for Veronica, quite attractive natural historian—as they catch one murderer after another.
What’s not to like about a series in which librarians are master spies tasked with collecting specific copies of rare books from various realities in a series of perilous adventures?
The only thing that might make that premise better is if the Master Spy Librarian were accompanied by an enigmatic assistant who may or may not be a dragon in disguise.
Oh, and every book needs to have a cat on the cover, because, as my daughter taught me at the tender age of five: the very best books all have cats on their covers.
Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series is one of those rare series where I can read multiple books back to back and still not get tired of the characters or the humor.
Set in various parts of the contemporary US, Hearne’s series follows Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids. Left to himself, Atticus would happily live out his days in Arizona, running his occult bookshop and shape-shifting occasionally so that he can go hunting with his Irish wolfhound, Oberon. Unfortunately, Atticus’ past has a nasty habit of catching up with him.
The resulting adventures are reliably entertaining for me, if not for Atticus, in large part because Kevin Hearne is just really good at writing dogs. No really, it’s true. Hearne does a great job of using the relationship between Oberon and Atticus as a foil for the grimmer moments in the books. If you don’t want to commit to a nine-book series just to see what I’m talking about, check out one of Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries.
The last book in the Iron Druid series, Scourged, came out in April of last year. I’ve been avoiding reading it ever since, in large part because I’m sad to say goodbye to these characters. But Kevin Hearne has moved forward to other things, and so must I. Wish me luck.
- In which The Five-Year-Old explains how to find a great book (Caterpickles)