Stealthy Scribblers: Mystery Series Read Alikes

Published Thursday, January 31, 2019

I’ve always been drawn to mystery books and read quite a few mystery series. Patrons often ask me for recommendations. Below are recommendations and comparisons of four mystery series read alikes that I have enjoyed for very different reasons. Give them a try…I think you’ll enjoy them too!

Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache series) vs. Colin Cotterill (Dr. Siri Paiboun series)

The authors Louise Penny and Colin Cotterill are two of my favorites because they write about and build upon a very curious, somewhat odd cast of characters that you continue to want to learn more about. In Penny’s case, the books transport you to a small fictional town south of Montreal called Three Pines that you feel comfortable in and want to be a part of. The characters are an interesting group of people who seem to belong in this little town. When reading the Colin Cotterill series you unknowingly learn something about what the small country of Loas was like in the 1970s and his peculiar cast of characters become just as endearing as those of Penny. Both series can be read in order or can be read as stand-alones. Both authors develop the characters throughout so I prefer to read them in order as it gives me a better feel for the characters to the point that it almost feels as though I know them.

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1)
Louise Penny

The first of fourteen (number 14 was just published in November, 2018!) books in the Inspector Gamache series is titled Still Life where Louise Penny introduces Inspector Gamache.

“Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal, and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it's a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.” (from Goodreads)

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The Coroner's Lunch (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #1)
Colin Cotterill

The Dr. Siri Paiboun series by Colin Cotterill is comprised of 10 books (and counting). The series is set in Laos in the 1970s just after the Pathet Lao have taken over. The main character, Dr. Siri, is appointed by the Communist Part as the national coroner because of the fact that he has received training in France, and because he is the only one left who even remotely has training to do the job.

The first book in the series is called “The Coroner’s Lunch”. It takes place in 1978 where the reader finds that 72 year old medical doctor, Dr. Siri Paiboun, has been pulled out of retirement to become the coroner of newly socialist Laos.

“Though his lab is underfunded, his boss is incompetent, and his support staff is quirky to say the least, Siri’s sense of humor gets him through his often frustrating days. When the body of the wife of a prominent politician comes through his morgue, Siri has reason to suspect the woman has been murdered. To get to the truth, Siri and his team face government secrets, spying neighbors, victim hauntings, Hmong shamans, botched romances, and other deadly dangers. Somehow, Siri must figure out a way to balance the will of the party and the will of the dead.” (from Goodreads)

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Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon series) vs. Dana Stabenow (Kate Shugak series)

Nevada Barr and Dana Stabenow write mysteries that take place outdoors, specifically in U.S. National Parks and in a generic National Park in Alaska, respectively. Seeing as I love to travel and enjoy being outdoors but sometimes cannot, learning about our National Parks and the wide open that is Alaska really appeals to me. I can be outdoors while keeping my nose in a book! It doesn’t hurt that the protagonists in both of these mystery series are women either. I think that all can be read as stand-alone books but again, I feel that it’s best to start at the beginning as both authors develop the characters and their lives throughout the series.

Track of the Cat
Nevada Barr

The Track of the Cat is the first of nineteen books in Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series. It takes place in west Texas in Guadalupe National Park.

“Anna Pigeon has fled New York City after the accidental death of her husband, and she now works as a law enforcement ranger at Guadaloupe Mountains National Park. There she finds the remains of fellow ranger Sheila Drury, who apparently was clawed to death by a mountain lion. Although an autopsy confirms this judgment, Anna becomes convinced that the claw marks have been faked. Her superiors discourage her from probing further, but another supposedly accidental death goads her into investigating Sheila's activities before her death--her campaign to open up the park to the public and her relationships with a young divorcee and with a powerful rancher opposed to Park Service policies. Anna is sure that clues reside in the thousands of snapshots the dead woman took--photos that show signs of having been rifled through. A park ranger herself, Barr develops a complex, credible and capable heroine who believes in truth and justice while remaining conscious of the ambiguities of human existence.” (from Publisher’s weekly)

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A Cold Day For Murder (Kate Shugak, #1)
Dana Stabenow

A Cold Day For Murder is the first of 21 books in Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak series (number 22 to be published in July 2019). Kate Shugak is an Aleut who lives on a 160-acre homestead in a generic National Park in Alaska. Her roommate is a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt and her nearest neighbors are a bull moose and a grizzly sow. Farther off are dog mushers, miners, hunters, trappers, fishermen, bush pilots, pipeline workers, park rats and park rangers, other Aleuts, Athabascans, a few Tlingits and the residents of a village named Niniltna.

'In a Cold Day for Murder “Kate Shugak returns to her roots in the far Alaskan north, after leaving the Anchorage D.A.'s office. Her deductive powers are definitely needed when a ranger disappears. Looking for clues among the Aleutian pipeliners, she begins to realize the fine line between lies and loyalties--between justice served and cold murder.” (from Goodreads)

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About the Author

Mary is a Circulation Clerk and has been working at the library since the end of 2016. She loves books, especially mysteries, and enjoys traveling when time and money permit. When she isn’t able to physically travel, she loses herself in a good book about a faraway place!