When left to my own devices, I tend to binge-read about subjects or to binge-read authors and/or series. That works well for me, but it’s something I try to avoid inflicting on the readers of this blog because I seriously doubt anyone else is as interested in some of these literary rabbit trails as I am. (You’re welcome.)
Lately, however, I’ve been exploring some mystery and espionage thriller series I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and I did want to share those.
Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee series*
We’ve seen a resurgence in this series circulating this year, which I’m assuming is partially due to the popularity of the AMC Dark Winds adaptation of some of the books. I’ve not gotten around to that show yet, though I did really enjoy the TV movie adaptations that PBS did about 20 years ago starring Wes Studi and Adam Beach.
Adaptations of this series tend to focus on the books that jointly feature Navajo tribal policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, but the earlier books that are devoted to them as solo entities are well worth reading too.
Hillerman excels at combining compelling, likable characters with intriguing, fast-paced plots and evocative, vivid atmosphere. Hillerman is especially interested in anthropology and mythology, so those topics often intersect with the crimes Leaphorn and Chee investigate.
Hillerman passed away several years ago, but his daughter has continued the series. We have all 18 books that Hillerman wrote, as well as the 7 his daughter Anne has written. She has an 8th one slated for release next year.
Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Nevada Barr, C.J. Box, and William Kent Krueger.
*Some but not all of the books are also on Libby as ebooks and audiobooks.
Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series**
This series has been recommended to me for years (and I did review its standalone novella a few years ago). The standalone novella is good, but the series itself is even better.
Armand Gamache is a talented chief inspector in Quebec’s homicide department. His team frequently finds itself in the idyllic village of Three Pines, which provides the series with plenty of opportunities to depict the bucolic scenery and highlight the quirky townspeople.
These elegant mysteries are slow burns but never boring, and Penny has a special knack for probing the motivations and psychology of the characters, whether they’re investigators, witnesses, victims, or murderers.
We have all the books in the series, with book 18 being released today. A streaming adaptation of the series is also set to debut next week, starring Alfred Molina as the intelligent, dignified Gamache.
Recommended for those who enjoy the work of P.D. James, Agatha Christie, C. Alan Bradley, and Elizabeth George.
**Ebooks and audiobooks for the series also available on Libby.
Alan Furst’s Night Soldiers series***
If you’re not much for mysteries or prefer your series to be less serialized than either Hillerman or Penny, then this one might be just the ticket for you. These lush historical espionage books are set during the 1930s and 1940s in Europe.
Furst is especially talented as creating evocative settings (both physical settings and time periods), and his books often depict Paris and Eastern Europe and star complex characters engaged in realistic spycraft. Though there are characters and places that appear in multiple books, most of the books have standalone plots and don’t have to be read in order.
Plots include but are not limited to French Resistance activity during WWII, Soviet spy rings in the 1930s, and the Spanish Civil War, with characters ranging from expatriate journalists to NKVD operatives to exiled aristocrats.
We have all 15 books in the series, with the last one published in 2019.
Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Daniel Silva, John Le Carre, and Philip Kerr.
***Some but not all of the series is on Libby as ebooks and audiobooks.
What have you been reading lately? Are you a fan of any of these series? What are your favorite detective and spy books? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on any of these items or to place them on hold.
2 thoughts on “What Have You Been Reading? Detective, Detective, Spy Edition”
Thank you for highlighting one of the acclaimed authors from my home state. I was fortunate enough to have met Mr. Hillerman several years ago and he could not have been kinder or more encouraging.
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Oh that’s awesome! I’ve burned through 8 of his books since September and he seems like he would have been an interesting guy to meet.