A Cozy Author Goes Dark: Ten Dark Mystery Favorites
As a writer of British “cozies” (I’m never going to reconcile myself to that label, especially when it’s spelled that way), I have quite a strong preference for the dark and dangerous end of the genre spectrum. But my tastes range widely and are constantly changing. Below are a few of the great reading moments of my life, in no particular order.
- Darkly Dreaming Dexter and subsequent titles in both the series and the TV version all qualify as great favorites. While the psychology and ethics might be undeniably murky, there is a sense of liberation in the overturning of usual morality. The way the characters are presented ensures that we want them dead, and we are always on Dexter’s side. I enjoy being unsettled and often surprised, which these books manage admirably.
- The “domestic suspense” novels of Celia Fremlin, written mainly in the 1970s, have a uniquely intelligent and honest tone to them, showing real lives in situations we find entirely convincing. Witty, unpredictable, and again sometimes unsettling, my favorite is With No Crying. I knew Celia quite well many years ago and was extremely grateful for the encouragement she gave me. I like to think she had a positive influence on my own writing in the way she creates character and dialogue.
- And if I am to name a cozy author, then Ann Granger is top of the list. Her writing is faultlessly confident, the pages turn themselves, and every book is fresh and engaging. The series, set in Victorian times, is quite brilliant.
- Books with animals in them. There never seem to be enough. Suzette A. Hill has a wonderful cat-and-dog team, which is gloriously funny. Kate Atkinson includes dogs now and then. Villains sometimes have big fluffy cats. But I can’t think offhand of anybody with a constant canine, equine, or feline companion, except my own Thea Osborne, of course, in the Cotswolds series. While I like dogs above all other species, I’m also deeply fond of pigs and cows. The Troutbeck Testimony centers the whole plot on the subject of dognapping.
- The Shardlake novels by C.J.Sansom. These seem to me to stand high above any other historical crime fiction. It’s almost magical the way the reader becomes immersed in the Tudor world. I find it difficult to trust most historical novelists, with some small detail often taking me out of the story, but Sansom does it perfectly.
- I like authentic settings, with the names kept as they really are. Dorothy L. Sayers in Oxford, Stephen Booth on the Derbyshire Dales, Reginald Hill in Yorkshire—they all gain a dimension from being that lovely mixture of fact and fancy, inextricably entwined. I do it myself, and readers are in full accord with my view that it works. The Troutbeck Testimony, for example, has scenes in an actual pub, walks on an actual fellside, and so on. The whole series features all the small Lakeland towns in the southern end of Cumbria.
- I should perhaps have mentioned earlier that my absolute unchangeable favorite among contemporary writers is Lee Child. He never puts a finger wrong.
- Because it’s the book I have just finished, I must mention The Red Box by Rex Stout. Firmly in the mainstream of American crime writing of the 1930s, he is funny, original, and deeply engaging. This was the first of his works I’d read, and I will be avidly seeking the others.
- Another abiding favorite is Laurie R. King. She is versatile, with many very different books in her oeuvre, and I have read most of them. My favorite is A Grave Talent, which I think has an extremely special and original quality to it. A book that has stayed with me for a long time now.
- Everybody loves a surprise twist ending, and I am no exception. I think the most startling, which I totally failed to anticipate, was in A Place of Execution by Val McDermid. I was drowning in admiration as I finished that book.
About the author:
Rebecca Tope is the author of four murder mystery series, featuring Den Cooper, Devon police detective; Drew Slocombe, undertaker; Thea Osborne, house sitter in the Cotswolds; and now Persimmon Brown, Lake District florist. She is also a “ghost writer” of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme.
About The Troutbeck Testimony:
On Sale October 25, 2016
Well-respected author Rebecca Tope and her mysteries set in the Lake District are available for the first time in the US!
In the fourth installment of Rebecca Tope’s Lake District series, The Troutbeck Testimony (Witness Impulse e-book, on sale 10/25/2016, $9.99), a huge funeral for Windermere’s popular resident Barbara Dodge is taking place, and florist Persimmon “Simmy” Brown and her new assistant, Bonnie Lawson, are busy compiling wreaths in preparation. As people pass through the shop, they begin to hear rumors about a series of sinister dognappings occurring in nearby Troutbeck. Up in arms over the crimes, they begin to investigate. But it isn’t until Simmy and her father are taking a walk up Wansfell Pike that it becomes apparent that something even worse is afoot and everyone’s favorite florist must stop a killer before another murder is committed.
With remote settings and a dramatic landscape, Tope’s ability to transport the reader to the Lake District will leave you wanting to follow Simmy through this cozy yet intriguing story.