Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Where have all the amateurs gone?

In my quest to write a good mystery novel, I've been devouring mysteries from my local library. I have to say, reading about "professionals" solving crimes just isn't as exciting as reading about a regular person foiling the bad guys. Maybe it's because I grew up on Nancy Drew and Mary Higgins Clark, but I can't get into mysteries that feature some hard-boiled detective, male or female.

I've read several Margaret Maron books. I like them because they're Southern, and she does the characters so well I feel like they're part of my own family. My beef is that the books aren't exciting enough, and in the later ones, the crime often gets solved (or at least, the murderer gets apprehended) without the main character, Judge Deborah Knott, even present. There's often no scene with the diabolical murderer about to kill her at the end--but not before he/she explains why he did it, that is. I'm a sucker for the big climactic ending.

Laura Lippman is a good author, though her main character is a private investigator, not an amateur. The character has major emotional baggage, which I know many readers like. I couldn't quite connect with her, but the writing is good and the endings are exciting.

Perri O'Shaughnessy (which is really two sisters) does legal thrillers usually set in Lake Tahoe. I like the choice of town, and the plots are fast-paced and interesting. She sets high stakes in her books, and the main character (attorney Nina Reilly) is always in danger several times throughout the books, as are her loved ones. Still, something for me is missing.

I read The Skull Beneath the Skin by P.D. James and loved it--a murder during a house party on a secluded island, very And Then There Were None-ish. The beautiful heroine Cordelia reminded me of a grown-up Nancy Drew, but with more depth. I've started a couple other P.D. James books since then, ones that feature her detective Adam Dalgliesh, but I can't seem to get into them. And call me sexist, but I just don't enjoy reading about male sleuths nearly as much as female ones.

Of course I've read lots of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich--who hasn't? And several of them have had me rolling in the floor laughing. But I haven't truly fallen in love with them, maybe because they're by nature just not serious enough.

Right now I'm trying a mystery by Elizabeth George. It's not bad so far, even if it does feature police officers instead of amateurs.

Where have all the amateur sleuths gone? Someone please give me a few authors you think I'd like--I'd be greatful.

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