Since I’m an avid reader I thought it might be fun to just do a short call-out every now and again on the blog for a couple of the books I’ve read recently that I really enjoyed. I went on a mystery binge in August…
The Jocelyn O’Roarke Series by Jane Dentinger (which starts with MURDER ON CUE.)
This series is about a somewhat successful New York theater actress who (as all amateur sleuths do) keeps getting sucked into murder investigations one way or another. Side characters include (but are not limited to) her on-again, off-again cop boyfriend, an aging British theater god, and a wonderfully quirky playwright. I burned through the first four books over the course of a week. (I said I read fast remember…) The big draws of this series for me are:
1. The theater setting. Clearly, Jane Detinger has ample experience of The Theatuh! and she does a masterful job evoking the atmosphere, the smells, the personalities, and especially the hard work that goes into putting up a play.
2. I really love Jocelyn, the main character. She’s a hard ass with a soft core. She swears, she fights, she’s got that lovely Irish temper, but she’s talented, dedicated, smart, literate and fun.
The David Brandstetter series by Joseph Hansen (which starts with FADEOUT.)
This series is about gay insurance claims investigator David Brandstetter. (Which is one of the more plausible amateur sleuth professions I’ve come across. Are you still “amateur” if you are technically being paid to investigate the crime?) I read the first 5 books in this series over the course of a week and a half. They are like crack, so addictive. This series is a bit more hard noir than I’m used to or usually enjoy, but Brandstetter is just SUCH a compelling protagonist. He’s very sharp and witty, very observant and on the ball. But he’s also very kind and caring and, often, he stays on the case even after it becomes clear his job, as far as the insurance company cares, is done.
The writing in this reminded me strongly of Josh Lanyon‘s stuff, especially the Adrien English series. The Brandstetter series is really interesting because it started in the 60s and was set in the 60s so, at this point in time, the books have become “historical” even though they were contemporary when they were written. Getting an insight into the gay culture of the time was really fascinating. The books don’t focus heavily on David’s love life, but he usually has some sort of romantic entanglement that forms a subplot in the book. My favorite love interest so far has been the pre-op transsexual (male to female) in book 5 SKINFLICK who had the most wonderful sense of humor. But usually David falls for slightly more conventional gay guys, although the love interests are never boring. The first book starts just after David has lost his long-term partner to cancer, and I keep hoping David will find a nice guy and settle down again. Guess I’ll just have to keep reading to see. 🙂