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Fforde, Atkinson, and French-Favorite Authors of the Moment
A few weeks ago I put together a hub on my go-to authors, my list of authors to read when I’m not sure what I want to read next. This got me thinking- an accompanying piece would make sense about authors not on stand-by, the ones out there that get bumped to the top of my list when they pen a new book. Below are a few of my current favorite authors. If you are on the look-out for new author suggestions my picks below are mystery writers for the most part and their books aren’t anything too deep. My job requires me to read medical and science articles all during my work day, which makes my for fun reading nothing too heavy but with good character development and usually a mystery to solve to end my day or curl up with on a weekend. I also am a little quirky and so I enjoy a quirky writer. Interestingly enough my current favorites are all from overseas (sorry USA!).
First up is Jasper Fforde, my current literary boyfriend, he is cuckoo and I mean that as a sincere compliment. Fforde’s work has been described as Harry Potter for adults (to which those adults out there that love HP ask wait, isn’t Harry for Adults too?) and his pilot series is great if you are a bibliophile. His leading lady is Thursday Next, a literary detective in a surreal Great Britain in the ‘80s where people watch little TV but read a lwhole lot of books. Fforde has created two amazing worlds in the Thursday Next Series-the aforementioned Great Britain, where Next spends her days tracking down classics counterfeiters and dealing with Shakespearian conspiracy theorists, and the BookWorld. As we learn in the first installment our heroine can book jump making her way into the classics, such as Jane Eyre as she does in the first book in the series, The Eyre Affair. In Fforde’s Bookworld books somewhat resemble movies, there are people acting out the book as readers in the real world are reading them. But more so than an actor taking on multiple roles the leads in the book exclusively act out their character over and over each time the book is read. In addition to all the published books out there, all books in progress and unpublished are in BookWorld. There is also policing to be done in the Bookworld and Next joins the ranks of some recognizable characters, Miss Havisham from Great Expectations and The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland to name a few, in order for justice to prevail in the land of books. Fforde has gone on to write many sequels, admittedly the first few are my favorites but I continue to read each one because I love the Bookworld he has created and the additional sequels present additional opportunities to delve further into it. The Thursday Next series is a love letter to the classics, the more well-read you are the more you get in Fforde’s BookWorld.
Fforde also writes three other series, two of which I read, The Nursery Crime Series, a clever mashup of nursery rhymes and detective stories, and currently only one book in the Shades of Gray series, with a sequel coming out soon. The Shades of Grey book introduces us to a dystopian society where a person’s place in the social scheme is dictated by which color they see predominantly as gauged by the Ishihara test. There are some hallmarks of a dystopian society, the 'Something Happened' that changed the world from how it was to how it is currently being run, those in charge aren’t really giving the general public all the information, and the general public is encouraged not to think too much. Fforde is reported to be working on the sequel now and I cannot wait for it to hit the shelves. I really can’t get enough of the wacky worlds Fforde creates in his books, he is hands down the most clever author on my list- for example his Nursery Crime Series actually comes out of his Thursday Next series as an unpublished book in BookWorld. In a Next sequel, Thursday jumps into the rough draft that ultimately becomes the first installment of Fforde's Nursery Crime Series.
Atkinson's Jackson Brodie Series
Year of Publication
One Good Turn
When Will There Be Good News
Started Early, Took My Dog
Another favorite Brit of mine is Kate Atkinson, her most popular work Case Studies sounds generic on the surface- a retired cop turned Private Investigator juggles several cases- but it is anything but generic. Atkinson’s strength is her character development, she goes in-depth into each of her characters with amazing detail, they become three-dimensional as the reader learns about their full backstory. This serves to fully invest the reader into the mystery surrounding each character. Atkinson has gone on with her PI, Jackson Brodie, for several sequels which all present new main characters while keeping Brodie somewhat in the mix along with a convoluted tale to unwind. Case Studies is the best by far but the additional ones are pretty good as well. She also has written several stand-alone novels, one of which I have read and absolutely love. Behind the Scenes at the Museum details five generations of a family spanning almost 100 years. Atkinson gives this multi-generational story formula a unique spin by incorporating the past by way of family heirlooms and knick-knacks, mentioned in the main storyline and then footnoted to vignettes in between the main story of the newest generation. These knick-knacks and heirlooms get a spotlight on them which gives a snapshot of the family members relevant and a look into their lives through the item in question. Several older stand-alone books by Atkinson are on my to-read list as well as a new one she just came out with in March 2013.
Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad Series
Date of Publication
In the Woods
Another overseas mystery writer I am currently obsessed with is Tana French, although she was born on US soil and she lists several countries as her home while growing up she currently lists Ireland as her home, which is the focus of her detective series. Like Atkinson, French takes a generic sounding premise and the outcome is anything but. Through her storytelling ability and character development, French takes an average detective story and elevates it to can’t-put-it-down status. In each of her books I find the basic question of Whodunit nagging me until I make it all the way to the end. Her Dublin Murder Squad series changes narrator book to book, a minor character in the preceding book tells the story in the next. I think this is a clever answer to this genre where it becomes unbelievable that a given detective in a recurring series would have so many amazing cases, but French’s format gives you the notion that the case discussed for a given narrator is their one big case that changes everything for them. Her first installment In the Woods won the several first novel awards, including the prestigious Edgar award for mystery writing. She has since written three more installments in the series. A recurring theme is the hometown cop whose past catches up with him, forcing him to go home again and deal with the family, neighborhood, and the life left behind for the police academy.
So there we have it my current top three authors. If you enjoy elevated mysteries, wacky book-jumping literacy detectives and great character development I definitely suggest checking these three out.