Murder Mystery Writers

Good Authors for your Reading List

Harlan Coben, George Pelecanos, James Patterson, John Connolly

Of the many murder mystery writers around, these three are well worth your time - and probably need no introduction from me.

Harlan Coben

The Myron Bolitar Series

This author is just great - although his actual name is somewhat a mystery in itself. Sometimes he is listed as above, other times as Harlen Corben or Harlan Coban! Whatever - I have gone by the name on the book covers.

Although his writing is not limited to the Myron Bolitar series, they were my first introduction to him as a crime writer.

After a basketball career cut short in the first year of being drafted due to a career ending injury Bolitar runs a sports agency called MB SportsReps based in New York along with his former college room mate Win Lock-Horne and Esperanza Diaz.

Diaz is a former female wrestler whilst Win is the most interesting character of the three coming from a privileged and very wealthy white background. He is also a complete psychopath and prone to using extreme violence whenever he feels it necessary.

Coben writes well. His protagonists hold our interest, his plots are twisting and neatly unpredictable and he has maintained a consistently high standard throughout the series without resort to contrivance.

A best selling author (Edgar Award, Agatha Award, Shamus Award) Coben has an accessible style - in both his Bolitar novels and the non-Bolitar books.

When I read "Hold Tight" - it held me glued to the page - quite different than the Bolitar series - yet as good.

In "Hold Tight" he juxtaposes four parallel plots around a central idea brimming with contemporary anxiety. What is a child's right to privacy and what is a parent's right to know? And when it comes to your children, is it possible to know too much? Tia and Mike Bye install a sophisticated spy program on their 16-year-old son's computer and discover their community has tragic secrets. Coben's plots are labyrinthine but they are never implausible.

No one does the "what if this happened to me" narrative with more energy.

His Books

Back Spin; Darkest Fear; Deal Breaker; Drop Shot; Fade Away; Gone For Good; Hold Tight; Just One Look; No Second Chance; One False Move; Promise Me Tell No One; The Final Detail; The Innocent; The Woods

George Pelecanos

"There is no finer American crime writer working today."
(Chicago Sun Times)

If you have watched "THE WIRE" on TV, then you will have glimpsed a wee bit of the quality of George Pelecanos.

Stephen King describes him as "perhaps the greatest living crime writer"

If not the greatest - he is certainly up there with them. As The Washington Post says "His books will burn into your brain"

Pelecanos's books are all different - but common to them all is a real and, at times, gut wrenching pathos - supremely related with solid narrative, chracterizations finely honed and an insight into humanity few authors can attempt, let alone achieve.

Some great writers, such as Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke continue to enthrall us and hold our attention through the literary device of basing their yarns on a central character.

Pelecanos, on the other hand, uses social circumstance as his common thread and each book explores the world of disadvantage and related crime with new faces and situations.

It works well - and we can relate to the characters who people his pages - although, we may not relate always to the lives many of them are subjected to. Such is Pelecanos's strength as a writer.

Check out his website Here you will find a list of some of his books - and then go to your favorite bookstore and start your collection.

Interestingly enough he also likes Mark Billingham who is in my UK British Crime Writers section and also on his website Why Mark Billingham is a Badass. With Pelecanos, I commend Billingham to you.

I am even more impressed with Pelecanos as he considers Michael Connelly the best mystery writer in the world. He (Pelecanos) can hold his own in such company.

James Patterson

Patterson is one of the best-known and bestselling writers of all time. He is the author of the two bestselling detective series of the past decade, the Alex Cross novels and the Women’s Murder Club series, and he has written many other number one bestsellers. In 2007, one of every fifteen hardcover novels sold was a James Patterson title – totaling an estimated 16 million books sold last year in North America alone.

He has won an Edgar award, the mystery world’s highest honour, and his novels Kiss the Girls and Along Came A Spider were made into feature films starring Morgan Freeman.

The "Alex Cross" series Alex Cross, a black forensic psychologist formerly of the Washington, D.C. Police Department and the FBI, now working as a private psychologist and government consultant—are the most popular books among Patterson readers and the top selling US Detective series in the past ten years.

If you haven't ventured into the Alex Cross series - then do give them a go - the early ones are especially riveting. The last couple though are getting a bit tired and a bit saccharine sweet. Contrived plotting is sneaking up slowly.

Note though: A Michael Connelly or James Lee Burke he ain't...but still good.

The Women's Murder Club This is a good departure from Alex Cross and has some great reads and is consistent from novel to novel. They did turn it into a reasonably good TV series - but I am not sure how long that will last.

Well worth your reading time.... especially good for plane rides; the beach or curling up in front of the fire to relax.

Patterson is no doubt a masterful storyteller with a fertile imagination - but he also seems to be an author with too many ideas drawn from that imagination so he has seemingly farmed them out to co-authors.

I found these comments when I was doing a bit of research:

    James Patterson is getting older, and tired-er, so now he leaves a lot of the easy parts of the writing to another writer. Whether or not the new books are as good as the older ones is a personal decision.

    Yes they're just as good...but it is a bit of a cheat. James Patterson writes a detailed plot and structures the book, he then lets the second writer actually pen the pages.

Some have worked well e.g. "Beach Road"; others not so well - even to the point of being dreadful.

Such is the case with "The Quickie" Not only was it not especially well written; it was fairly implausible and the main protagonist had no redeeming features whatsoever - in fact distasteful. I don't like not liking the lead character.

Actually, the novels title says it all - it was a quickie - will get the bucks for sure - but riding on the reputation of his name and better books.

Even if you have read these - clicking will take you to Amazon to select others!

John Connolly (Irish author of American Crime)

Connolly is best known for his series of novels starring private detective Charlie Parker.

His first novel, Every Dead Thing, was met with critical acclaim and was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel and went on to win the 2000 Shamus Award for Best First Private Eye Novel (he is the first author outside of the US to have won the award).

Although Connolly's novels fall under the crime genre, his stories have become increasingly tinged with supernatural overtones.

In the Parker book, The Black Angel, Parker is haunted by the ghosts of his murdered wife and daughter (whether real or imagined), while his search for a missing New York prostitute is linked to the myth of the fallen angels.

The setting of Maine in each of his novels, coupled with the combination of suspense and the paranormal, have invited comparisons to the works of Stephen King, although the two authors employ very different styles.

Connolly was drawn to the tradition of American crime fiction, because it seemed the best medium though which he could explore the issues of compassion, morality, reparation and salvation.... of course tinged with the element of the supernatural.

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