View Full Version : mystery/suspense with literary edge

11-13-2009, 07:11 AM
Help! I am counting on you late-night types for a little assistance. I desperately need a couple of titles of commercial mystery/suspense novels (old or new/in print or out of print) with a literary edge. Though I've read plenty of mystery/suspense, the stuff I've read is pretty much straight commercial--fast-paced action without a lot of emotion or social plot going on.
Any help at all would be greatly appreciated!

11-13-2009, 07:20 AM
Check out Dorothy L. Sayers's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_L._Sayers) Lord Peter Wimsey books.

Her level of education boggles my public school drone mind, and it shines in her writings.

A quote from Gaudy Night that covers her experience as a highly literate, classically educated mystery writer:

Miss Burrows: Excuse my saying so, Miss Vane, but given your own terrible experience, I wonder that you should still decide to write the sort of books you do.

Harriet Vane: You're saying that anyone with proper feelings would rather scrub floors for a living? Well, I should scrub floors very badly, and I write mysteries rather well.

11-13-2009, 07:25 AM
I loved Gaudy Night. Loved all the Wimsey novels, but especially that one. So many vivid images. And such an interesting, sophisticated struggle between those two people before both gave in to their feelings and committed to the relationship.

I never read her for the mystery, but for the characters and language.

And it pissed me off no end that she spent the last ten years of her life and career writing "serious" books rather than more Lord Peter novels.


11-13-2009, 08:48 AM
The Athenian Mysteries by Jose Carlos Somoza is a great example. Also Luther Blissett's Q.

Old Hack
11-13-2009, 11:43 AM
Anything by P D James--her later ones are more literary than her earlier books. Wonderful stuff.

11-13-2009, 11:47 AM
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. Loved it!

11-13-2009, 03:25 PM
You people are awesome! Thanks.
Now if only my kids would let me get some sleep. I didn't intend to be checking this thread at 12:30, 4:30 amd 6:20.

11-14-2009, 01:44 AM
David Peace's Red Riding trilogy is amazing too.

11-14-2009, 04:49 AM
David Peace's Red Riding trilogy is amazing too.

Quartet now;)

11-14-2009, 04:57 AM
A lot of the highly literary M/T/S fly in from the UK: I concur with Dorothy L. Sayers and P.D. James as being a cut above but would add the brilliant Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse) and Reginald Hill (Pascoe and Dalziel) to the list.

Nicholas Freeling's books featuring Inspector van der Valk, but especially those featuring Henri Castang are as literary as genre can get.

From the USA, I doubt there's anyone that can tackle Laurie R. King for her scholarship in both her series, one featuring Mary Russell and especially her Kate Martinelli books.

11-14-2009, 05:42 PM
Quartet now;)

Duh! I swear I've read all four (and not just the tv :scared:drama!)

11-14-2009, 05:54 PM
Duh! I swear I've read all four (and not just the tv :scared:drama!)

You may well have!... I'm waiting for my copy of the latest, due in Feb. 2010. As I live in the US, we get the UK novels a bit later than you lucky folks.

The entire series spans a full decade:
And I, too, would heartedly recommend these books.

And, IT'S BEEN DRAMATIZED! Hooray! Maybe we'll get to see that, too:hooray:

11-16-2009, 03:26 AM
Try Laura Lippman's stand-alones (Every Secret Thing, What The Dead Know). Definitely more on the literary side. I think both of Gillian Flynn's novels are considered literary suspense. I just finished Dark Places and was blown away. It's gritty and a bit gruesome, so not recommended if you prefer lighter fare. I also think Nancy Pickard's Virgin Of The Small Plains probably qualifies as literary mystery/suspense.

Stijn Hommes
11-16-2009, 01:27 PM
"Literary edges" are overrated.

JJ Cooper
11-16-2009, 01:33 PM
Lisa Unger's thrillers tend to have a 'literary' feel to them. Great writing.


11-16-2009, 03:00 PM
I'd also recommend Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine from the UK. Ruth Rendell is crime drama, but always very understated and subtle, and when she writes as Barbara Vine it's darker and more psychological. My favourite Ruth Rendell is Adam and Eve and Pinch Me and Barbara Vine is The Blood Doctor. :)

11-17-2009, 08:32 AM
Thanks so much again! I'm going to head to the bookstore and the library later this week and check some of these authors out.

Kate Thornton
11-17-2009, 07:40 PM
Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series has a literate and philosophical edge (the main character is an academic philisopher)
They are not fast paced, but are interesting and complex.

K. Andrew Smith
11-17-2009, 11:07 PM
Any of Dennis Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro novels:

A Drink Before the War
Darkness, Take My Hand
Gone, Baby, Gone
Prayers for Rain

He's a fabulous writer.

Lady Ice
11-17-2009, 11:21 PM
Rebecca :)