Who’s Your Favorite Series Detective? We Want to Know!

BookendsLynn and Cindy: We mystery fans love series. For many of us, it started with Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys and we’ve happily gone on from there. Series are personal, too: those detectives, amateur or professional, become like friends and we really want to know what they’ll be up to next.

Mystery MonthMystery series for kids have come a long way since Nancy Drew sat behind the wheel of her little blue roadster. Now there is a wealth of choices for young mystery fans and that means that we youth librarians get double the pleasure! So who are your favorite detectives? Give us at least one youth series and one adult series favorite, please. (You can list more if you’re like Lynn and can’t ever choose just one.) It can be old or new, a finished series or one that is ongoing. So whether it’s Miss Moses LoBeau, or Lizbeth Salander, we hope you will play along.

P.K Pinkerton and the Deadly DesperadosLynn: I’m a lifelong mystery fan so of course I can’t narrow down my favorites to just two!

For youth, it’s the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer (The Case of the Missing Marquess, 2006), the P. K. Pinkerton series by Caroline Lawrence (The Case of the Deadly Desperados, 2012), and the Young Sherlock Holmes series by Andrew Lane (Death Cloud, 2011).

Fer-de-lanceNow for adult reading. I’m currently working my way through the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn and love those but I have a real soft spot for Dunn’s wonderful character Eleanor Trewynn from the Cornish series that sadly had only three books (starting with Manna from Hades, 2009). I’d love to see more of the key-losing but sharp-as-a-tack Eleanor (hint hint).

I think my all-time favorite series is from Rex Stout who gave us the quarter-ton, orchid growing, gourmand genius detective Nero Wolf. I discovered Nero and his jack-of-all-trades Archie Goodwin as a kid and still love the books. Every few years I start at the beginning and read them all over again.

Screaming Staircase by Jonathan StroudCindy: I hope our readers chime in, as I need suggestions for adult titles—preferably with good audio productions.

I, too, grew up on Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, and graduated to Lois Duncan when I hit junior high. My favorite youth mystery series detectives are Jonathan Stroud’s ghost-busting Lockwood & Co. team. The teen trio of cocky Anthony Lockwood, curmudgeon researcher George Cubbins, and sardonic Lucy Carlyle make the series so much fun to follow. The Screaming Staircase (2013) is a great launch to this series (three books so far) offering a mystery with supernatural elements, horror, and snarky humor. What’s not to love?

Postmortem by Patricia CornwellAs a teen I devoured the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary this year!) and I should probably return to that for short adult mystery fixes. I don’t have much time to binge on adult books, but for a while I was a devoted fan of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series that debuted in 1990 with Postmortem. I’m not sure whether it was Scarpetta’s medical examiner role (Quincy, M.E. with Jack Klugman was a favorite TV show of mine) or her Italian cooking, but I followed Kay for years.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

12 Comments on "Who’s Your Favorite Series Detective? We Want to Know!"

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  1. Ooo, good one. I’m always looking for new series, too.
    Here are my recommendations:
    Middle grades: you were right on when you suggested Mo LoBeau. I just love the writing, setting and characters.
    Older: R.F. Jackaby and Abigail kind of took me by surprise as I don’t usually get into the paranormal stream of things but the first two books in the series worked for me.
    And Mary Quinn for the old fashion feel of a cozy mystery with a dash of romance.
    Adult:Hands down Armand Gamache by Louise Penny. Oh, but then there’s Walt Longmire (the books NOT the TV adaptation). The audiobooks are pretty good, too.
    Can’t wait to see what others recommend.
    Tammy
    Apples with Many Seeds

  2. I too adore Lockwood & Co and PInkerton. A new series I like enough to have to get the new ones from the UK (not being willing to wait till their published here) is the Wells & Wong series. First one is Murder Most Unladylike. Like the greater complexity with each title.

  3. jnicholas41@frontier.com' Janet Nicholas says:

    Of course, I grew up with Nancy Drew. Right now my favorite “old time” detective series is the Mr. & Mrs. North books, I am re-reading the whole series. My favorite of the “new” series is the Longmire series. I think the books are much better than the TV series. Right now I am waiting for the newest one to come out!

  4. Let us not forget the remarkable Adelia Aguilar, the “Mistress of the Art of Death” in the tales by Ariana Franklin. I’m so sad that the author died after writing just four titles in the series. Marvelous historical mysteries!

    I also love Hap Collins and Leonard Pine in Joe Lansdale’s books — a sort of rough-edged, East Texas version of Robert B. Parker’s stories. These are more crime dramas than classic mysteries, but the characters are irresistible.

  5. phoenix721@sbcglobal.net' CarolK says:

    I promised myself I would read all the Harry Bosch Detective Series by Michael Connelly when I retired. I haven’t quite reached that goal but am so loving the journey with this character. I learn a bit more about Harry with each new book. Consider the book I’m reading now, Echo Park. The big reveal, hold onto your seats, Harry wears boxer shorts! Besides having great characters, the series depicts Los Angeles, The City of Angeles, the good and the bad vividly. Jazz, books, art, all play a part in the Bosch novels, showing the softer side of a cop who bucks authority and what his present partner, I promised myself I would read all the Harry Bosch Detective Series by Michael Connelly when I retired. I haven’t quite reached that goal but am so loving the journey with this character. I learn a bit more about Harry with each new book. Consider the book I’m reading now, Echo Park. The big reveal, hold onto your seats, Harry wears boxer shorts! Besides having great characters, the series depicts Los Angeles, The City of Angeles, the good and the bad vividly. Jazz, books, art, all play a part in the Bosch novels, showing the softer side of a cop who bucks authority and what his present partner in Echo Park, Kiz Rider, calls “the cowboy thing”.

    Got a long commute or need to pound the pavement to keep those love handles at bay? Get the audiobook narrated by Len Cariou who brings this complex character and series to life.

  6. donnachurch73@webster.edu' Donna Church says:

    For an international flavor, I love the Capucine Culinary Mysteries set in Paris. For 3 young authors writing historical novels, you can go wrong with Charles Finch (Charles Lennox series), Tasha Alexander (Lady Emily), and Deanna Raybourn (Lady Jane Grey and Veronica Speedwell series). I also love the mystery espionage exploits of India Black. Alex Grecian’s Murder Squad gets more into policing, but at the start of Scotland Yard. Two recent discoveries are Gower Street Detectives by Kasasian and O’Nelligan & Plunkett by Nethercott. Finally, we have to give a shout out to Alexander McCall Smith.

  7. rfasulo@sals.edu' Rebecca Fasulo says:

    The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew started me reading mysteries. I love Blue Balliett’s books though I don’t think they are categorized as mysteries there is definitely a puzzle to solve.

    I love Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce series. Other adult series that I’ve enjoyed include Sue Grafton, Jane Haddam, and Diane Mott Davidson.

  8. phoenix721@sbcglboal.net' Carol Kubala says:

    I promised myself I would read all the Harry Bosch Detective Series by Michael Connelly when I retired. I haven’t quite reached that goal but am really loving the journey with this character. I learn a bit more about Harry with each new book. Consider the book I’m reading now, Echo Park. The big reveal, hold onto your seats, Harry wears boxer shorts! Besides having great characters, the series depicts Los Angeles, The City of Angeles, the good and the bad vividly. Jazz, books, art, all play a part in the Bosch novels, showing the softer side of a cop who bucks authority and what his present partner in Echo Park calls “the cowboy thing”.

    Got a long commute or a need to exercise to keep those love handles in check? Try this series as an audiobook narrated by Len Cariou who brings just the right bit of cheek to Bosch and company.

  9. ala41365@yahoo.com' Allison says:

    I’m so glad someone mentioned Sister Frevisse! She’s my favorite in adult mysteries. In kids’ mysteries, I like Ingrid Levin-Hill, from Peter Abrahams.

  10. cmartine@uccs.edu' Christina says:

    Among my favorites: Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series set in French Canada – excellent in audio versions also; Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series set in England post WWI – also excellent audio versions; Cara Black’s Aimee Leduc series set in Paris; Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series – contemporary set in England; J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas long series with absolutely wonderful audio versions by Susan Ericksen.

  11. kkimura@slcolibrary.org' KKimura says:

    Some of my favorite detectives are CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake, Anne Perry’s Thomas Pitt, Jonathan Kellerman’s Milo Sturgis, William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Conner, and Charles Todd’s Inspector Rutledge.

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