Kate Atkinson$16.99 $15.63
Case Histories is the first of 5 books in the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson. This detective is a very appealing character: a complicated, kind, tough ex-policeman from the north of England who loves country music, rescues dogs and people, and dispenses justice in his own way. Atkinson is an excellent writer, and we usually shelve these with the fiction because they are a cut above most detective stories. Interesting fact: There was a BBC production (the books are better) in which Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, stars as Brodie. (Brodie is just about the polar opposite of Malfoy.)
Colin Cotterill$9.99 $9.19
I'm including the very funny Colin Cotterill in this list because, although his series are based in Laos and Thailand, he is an expatriate Brit living in the East. The Coroner's Lunch is the first of 15 books in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series. These books take place in Laos in the 1970's. Somehow, they manage to redeem that tragic time and place. They are laugh-out-loud funny. Siri is ready for retirement after many arduous years in the jungle as a field doctor in the wars, but gets the thankless job of national coroner instead. He has no equipment, but plenty of eccentric friends and helpers. He also manages to inherit an ancient spirit who inhabits his mind and body and with whom he has many interesting and cryptic conversations. Cotterill also has a series about a journalist in contemporary Thailand. The Jimm Juree series begins with Killed at the Whim of a Hat.
Nicci French$16.00 $14.72
Blue Monday is the first of 8 books in the now completed Frieda Klein series by Nicci French (a wife and husband team). The heroine is an intriguingly neurotic therapist who loves to walk through London and trace all the underground rivers. She uncovers a psychopathic killer who interacts in a cat and mouse game with her throughout the series. She does her best to save different people from him, with the help of some interesting friends (a Ukrainian builder, a sympathetic police officer). There are many more police who don't believe her, as well as an incompetent and oppositional therapist. This series does not have the quirky humor of the two previous series, but it does have a quirky and very compelling heroine.
Elly Griffiths$15.99 $14.71
The Crossing Places is the first of 12 books in the Dr. Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. Ruth is a forensic anthropologist based in Norfolk. These books are very evocative of the landscape and history here. Usually there is a parallel archaeological mystery with a contemporary one. Later books go a bit further afield with forays to Blackpool, Italy, and a re-location to Cambridge. Ruth is a single mother as well, and her daughter is born and grows into a 9 year old in the course of these books.
Laurie R. King$18.00 $16.56
The first of 16 books in the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King is The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or, on the Segregation of the Queen. These are so well-written, and they seem by far the best of the Sherlock Holmes re-creations. Mary Russell is young and awkward, but she is Holmes's intellectual equal, and they become partners. She is a Hebrew scholar, a theologian, a feminist, and a master of disguise; in my opinion, this partnership outdoes the original one of Holmes and Watson.
Elizabeth Peters$10.00 $9.20
The first of 20 books in the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters is Crocodile on the Sandbank. These books are absolutely hilarious, with characters that are funny and captivating at the same time. Amelia becomes an archaeologist in Egypt with her husband Emerson in the 1880s, and the books continue into the 1920s. Peters herself was an Egyptologist, and so the books are accurate. However, it is the umbrella-as-weapon wielding, inimitable Amelia and the irascible yet romantic Emerson who make these books so enjoyable.
Phil Rickman$15.95 $14.67
The first of 14 books in Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins series is The Wine of Angels (which is cider, hard cider). The heroine is an Anglican priest who lives in a small village in the border country between England and Wales, a widowed mother with a teenage daughter. Merrily is asked to become involved in deliverance ministry as an exorcist. The books do have an element of the supernatural in them. They are very evocative of the land, history, and culture here; indeed, there is a book of photographs showing the churches, ruins, standing stones, and landscapes where the books take place: Merrily's Border. The books cover regional topics from the Templars to ley lines to the SAS to the growing of hops to the writing of The Hound of the Baskervilles to the music of Edward Elgar to the most amazing town filled with bookstores, Hay-on-Wye.