Booking Through Thursday

Do you read mystery novels? If so, why? Is it the mysteries themselves that appeal to you? The puzzle-solving? The murders? Or why don’t you read them? What about them doesn’t appeal?

Yes, I read mysteries. However, I don’t read much contemporary mysteries but stories set in different settings, such as science fiction, fantasy, or a historical period.

As for what appeals to me, it’s usually a combination of characters, the setting itself, and the writing style. And also, that the characters change and grow through the series. However, the mystery is also part of the package that keeps me reading.

Two of my favorite mystery series are superficially quite similar:
Amelia Peabody series written by Elizabeth Peters is set in the Victorian era. In most of the books, Amelia and her family are in an archaeological dig in Egypt and her husband Emerson complains about her tendency to start solving mysteries instead of concentrating on the main thing, archeology.
The series is written in a very humorous style and from Amelia’s point-of-view in first person. The characters change and grow during the series which covers several decades, enough for Amelia’s son to grow to adulthood and start his own family.

Phryne Fisher series written by Kerry Greenwood is set in the 1920s Australia. Phryne herself is a flapper. She’s an independently wealthy young woman who bucks pretty much every taboo possible for that era: she drives a fast car and flies planes, she has handsome young men as lovers and has no plans of settling down. She and the cast of characters surrounding her are highly entertaining. The books are mostly written from Phryne’s point-of-view in third person but sometimes we also get other character’s POV. However, the characters don’t change nearly as much as in the Peabody series and the books themselves don’t cover much time.

My other favorite mystery series are science fiction. Perhaps closest to Peter’s and Greenwood’s series is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. It also covers decades of time and the main character and the people around him change quite a lot. Not all of the books have mystery plots, so it’s not a traditional mystery series as such. However, Miles Vorkosigan does more than enough of solving mysteries.
Most of the series is written in Miles’ third person POV. While Bujold has a couple of whodunnit plots, most have more in stake than just finding a murderer.

The Retrieval Artist series written by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is also science fiction. It started on the Moon, set in the domed city of Armstrong. It has multiple POV characters who are usually dealing with aliens and specifically some matter of alien law which is messing up the humans’ lives. Later books are set on other planets, like Mars.
This series again has characters who change and grow during a long period of time, but also quite alien aliens (not just humans with bumps on their heads, even though I do enjoy that kind of aliens, too), and various different planets as settings.
Also, Rusch’s books (in this series) are larger in scope than in Greenwood’s or Peters’ books: a city has been bombed and the main characters are trying to save people while finding out which group did the bombing or a mass grave has been found which affects the alien culture living near the grave in a massive way. In fact, they’re often like catastrophe movies (except good; sorry, but I don’t like catastrophe movies).

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