The Number One Ladies' Detective Stories
IMHO ~ The No. 1 Ladies Detective Series
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on DVD
...and in books!
I Love A Mystery!
Or more precisely, I love a plentiful mystery series with well-rounded, interesting, quirky characters, set in an unusual place, with lots of side information such as recipes, history, and local stories! I also love a well-rounded, complex heroine who is full of surprises.
That's why I love these ladies’ detective stories:
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
This is a sprawling series by prolific author Alexander McCall Smith. It is one of his several series, so it has the added benefit that you can go right on enjoying the author, even after you have devoured all of these marvelous stories.
Mma Precious Ramotswe is the heroine of these lovely tales set in Botswana. She is a traditionally built lady who does not need to worry about silly things like dress sizes. This leaves her free to own her own home and run her own business, purchased with the proceeds of her inheritance from her dear father. Mma Ramotswe is a kind - hearted, intelligent, sensible, no-nonsense sort of lady who always comes up with solutions that will benefit everyone involved. The stories are peopled with proud, hard-working, folks, and we learn a great deal about African history and customs in the course of the tales. When I am reading a Precious Ramotswe mystery, I often find myself wondering what is happening in my book when I have to stop reading and do something else!
The Elizabeth Goodweather Mysteries
There are only four books in this series so far, and I have consumed them in record time! Elizabeth Goodweather is a heroine after my own heart. She is middle aged, hard-headed, creative, strong, and independent. She lives on her own herb farm in the mountains of North Carolina, and she has three dogs! When she is not creating lovely herbal wreaths for every occasion, she is solving local crimes with her new boyfriend, Phillip, a retired police detective. Interwoven in the tales of contemporary mountain life are tales of its past. Local characters are rich and interesting, and author Vicki Lane writes beautifully in the mountain dialect.
Believe me when I say, your mouth will water every time she has dinner at an old-timer's house! I have actually written down some of the meals she has enjoyed so that I can try to reproduce them in my own kitchen! You can find recipes at the author's website!
A Bountiful Series! Starting with One for the Money
The Stephanie Plum Mysteries
I have to be honest! I almost gave up on this series by Janet Evanovich, a former romance writer. The first two, One For the Money , and Two For the Dough , were a bit too fluffy-romancy for me. Of course, all ladies' detective stories have an element of romance, but it is usually fairly subtle. The first two in this series were not subtle. However, by the third book, Three to Get Deadly , the author had her legs under her and the romance was put on the back burner. I encourage you to read the first two books to get the background of the character; even though, you may find them a bit mushy.
Be advised, by book four, Four to Score , the tone moves into frankly erotic with an edge -not fluffy!
Stephanie Plum is a hapless New Jersey bounty hunter who is constantly bumbling her way through one misadventure after another with hilarious results. As her friend Lula (hooker, turned file clerk, turned bounty hunter’s assistant) puts it:
“We’re bounty hunters. We can do anything we want. We’re protected by a dumb-ass law made back in 1869 when people didn’t know any better.“
Because of this, anything can happen and usually does, and these books are really just laugh-out-loud funny. Between the extremely colorful local characters, the obligatory Saturday dinners (fix-ups) with the folks, constant car problems, and concerns over flirtations, big hair, fashion statements, Italian Catholicism, keeping the cupboard stocked with pop-tarts, Ritz crackers, salsa and beer, and bonding with lovable pet, Rex the hamster, there's hardly time for mystery.
But, dead folks just keep turning up in Stephanie Plum's world, and she just has to find out who-dun-it! You learn a lot about pistol-packin’ New Jersey in the Stephanie Plum mysteries. It may not all be true, but it is quite nicely done!
Actually, my opinion of this series has changed. After the hopeful third volume, the quality of the series just went downhill in my humble opinion. I soldiered on through about story #16 but finally gave up in disgust. It's essentially like reading the same story over and over again, and they just get more ridiculous with each incarnation. Whatever you do, don't read the "between the numbers" novels, which are holiday themed, very fluffy romance novels featuring the characters from this series. Yuck!
Of course, Charlaine Harris is best known for her Sookie Stackhouse vampire novels on which the series, True Blood , is based. It may (or may not) surprise you to know that these are not her best work. She has also written several terrific mystery series whose main characters, in my opinion, are far more well-rounded and interesting than Sookie!
The Lily Bard Mysteries
My favorite of her series’ is the Lily Bard mysteries. In fact, I believe this series is her best work. Lily is a very complex character whose life experience is based on an incident in Harris' own life. The character was kidnapped, raped and tortured as a young, innocent, debutant, and the experience completely altered her personality and her life. She left her former life behind and focused the rest on becoming strong and invulnerable. She works independently as a house-cleaner, but mystery and murder just have a way of dropping into her lap. You learn a lot about the inner landscape of a survivor of sexual abuse when reading the Lily Bard mysteries.
Harper Connelly and Aurora Teagarden
In addition to the Lily Bard series, Charlaine Harris has created two other fine series of ladies’ detective stories:
The Harper Connelly Mysteries, and the Aurora Teagarden mysteries.Both are very, very good, but of the two, I prefer the Harper Connelly series. It’s a bit edgier and grittier.
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