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Topic: Favorite Lesser Known Fiction Series?

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Subject: Favorite Lesser Known Fiction Series?
Date Posted: 5/28/2008 4:09 PM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2005
Posts: 1,563
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There are obviously lots of well known / high profile series out there. Even if you don't read them, most everyone is probably familiar with series from authors like James Patterson, Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Tess Gerritsen, Janet Evanovich, Preston & Child, Jeffery Deaver, etc.,  but I thought we could share thoughts on some of our favorite "lesser known" series.

I know not everyone will have the same definition of "lesser known", so when in doubt please go ahead and share. A few lesser known series that I really enjoy are:

Mark de Castrique's "Burryin' Barry" series. First book is Dangerous Undertaking. It takes place in Gainesboro, N.C. and the surrounding hill country. The main character is a former policeman returned home to take over the family's funeral home, though he still manages to get caught up in police cases with the local sheriff.  de Castrique is also starting a new series with a character named Sam Blackman, first book due next month.

Tim Cockey's "Hitchcock Sewell" series. First book is The Hearse You Came In On. Set in Baltimore, the lead in this one is also running the family's funeral home. There is a lot of humor in this series and it reminds me somewhat of the Stephanie Plum series for laughs and sheer wackiness. Side note, Cockey also writes another series under the name Richard Hawke (Speak of the Devil & Cold day in Hell).

Chris Grabenstein's "John Ceepak" series. First book is Tilt-A-Whirl. Set on the Jersey shore. Lead character Ceepak is former military police turned civilian police and his partner is a still wet behind the ears local who starts off the series as a part time officer / summer help. Books are actually told from the partner's p.o.v. which makes watching the character of Ceepak unfold very interesting.

Jeff Strand's "Andrew Mayhem" series. First book is Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary). As his last name would imply, the lead character tends to find himself caught up in all kinds of mayhem. This is a comedy / horror series, and it should be noted that while the comedy is laugh out loud funny the horror can be quite graphic.

How about you? Mystery, sci-fi, western... it doesn't matter what genre, please share some of your favorite lesser known series! :-)

Last Edited on: 5/28/08 4:11 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 5/28/2008 4:12 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2007
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Easy one for me, Ravenloft!!!!!

Date Posted: 5/28/2008 5:08 PM ET
Member Since: 12/16/2007
Posts: 148
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Judge Deborah Knott, (North Caroline District Judge) by Margaret Maron:

Bootlegger's Daughter (1992 Agatha Award for Best Novel)

Southern Discomfort (1993 finalist for Agatha Award for Best Novel)

Shooting at Loons

Up Jumps the Devil (1996 Agatha Award for Best Novel)

Killer Market

Home Fires (1998 finalist for Agatha Award for Best Novel)

Storm Track (2000 Agatha Award for Best Novel)

Uncommon Clay

Slow Dollar

High Country Fall (2004 Finalist for Agatha Award Best Novel)

Rituals of the Season (2005 finalist for Agatha Award Best Novel)

Winter's Child

Hard Row (2007 finalist for Agatha Award Best Novel)

Pat Montella series by Elena Santangelo (Time swaps between past and contemporary mysteries)

By Blood Possessed

Hang My Head and Cry

Posion to Purge Melancholy


Date Posted: 5/28/2008 5:13 PM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2005
Posts: 1,563
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I will definitely be checking out that Judge Deborah Knott series. Thanks!

Date Posted: 5/28/2008 10:27 PM ET
Member Since: 4/3/2008
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Someone on Shelfari just recommended the "Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson to me, but I only have it on my WL for now.

I also am interested in the children's series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. This one I read a review of. Apparently, the series takes old Greek myths and places them in modern times, and the kids are modern day demi-gods. Sounds like fun to me. The first one is called The Lightning Thief.

Date Posted: 5/29/2008 12:45 PM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2005
Posts: 1,563
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I have read a few of the Repairman Jack books and IMO they are worth your effort. Thanks for the response!

Date Posted: 5/30/2008 8:45 AM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2005
Posts: 1,563
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Anyone else? I know there have to be more series you love and want to share with others out there! :-)

Date Posted: 5/30/2008 5:58 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2006
Posts: 2,246
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I have enjoyed the Abel Jones Civil War mysteries by Owen Parry. Abel is a Welsh immigrant, and it took me a bit to get used to the rhythm of his speech in these first-person narrations, but it grew on me. Starts with Faded Coat of Blue.

Stop You're Killing Me page: http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/P_Authors/Parry_Owen.html

Here's the Publishers Weekly blurb for Faded Coat of Blue, better than I could say it:   A colorful, scrupulous and unassuming sleuth named Abel Jones is the protagonist of this solid historical thriller set during the opening months of the Civil War. When a crusading abolitionist is found murdered in 1861 in a Union encampment near Washington, Jones, a convalescing casualty of First Manassas, presently assigned to desk duty, is tapped by the Union's newest general, George B. McClellan, to discover the killer and bring him to justice. Although Jones is the most modest of men - a teetotaling Welsh immigrant, a Methodist and stout moralist - he's a veteran of some of the bloodiest battles of the century, as a former solider in Britain's Indian army.

Modeled on the best qualities of such famous detectives as Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes - with a little Miss Marple thrown in - Jones is small of stature and hampered by an injured leg, but he is a courageous man and seeker of truth. Decrying injustice everywhere, from child prostitution to military atrocities, the humble do-gooder proves a daunting foil for an assortment of villains, including McClellan himself. The first-person narrative is infused with ingeniously authentic and varied period patois, artfully drawn cameos and historical portraits. Whenever Jones issues a narrow assessment of people according to their national or racial background, he does so in accordance with typical period attitudes - no revisionist political correctness here.. Sometimes unwittingly funny, Jones's narrative voice is a feast of fine language and well-rendered dialectical precision. This splendid novel whets the appetite for the promised next volume and the continuing adventures of the modest hero.

Date Posted: 5/30/2008 7:30 PM ET
Member Since: 8/23/2007
Posts: 26,510
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CS Harris has a great historical mystery series starring Sebastian St.Cyr.  The first is What Angel's Fear, then When God's Die, When Mermaid's Sing and Where Serpents Sleep.  These are great books. 

Anne Perry has a great WWI series about the adult Reaveley siblings going through the war.  She's well known for her Monk and Pitt series.  The WWI series is really, really good.  Let's see if I remember the order right: No Graves As Yet, Shoulder the Sky,  Angels in the Gloom, At Some Disputed Barricade and We Shall Not Sleep.  Read them in order.  



Date Posted: 5/31/2008 12:59 PM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2005
Posts: 1,563
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Thanks for the suggestions! I'm looking for some new things to pull me a bit out of my "comfort zone" and those sound like very fresh territory indeed given I don't usually read things with a historical setting. I will definitely check those out. :-)

Last Edited on: 5/31/08 1:00 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/31/2008 1:32 PM ET
Member Since: 2/13/2007
Posts: 2,272
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Angela Thirkell's "Barsetshire" series, beginning with Ankle Deep, written in 1933. They've been around forever and I have read them over and over again! They were enormously popular when first written but these days most people haven't heard of Angela Thirkell, and it is a shame! In the same vein but written 50 years later, "The Cazelet Chronicles" by Elizabeth Jane Howard -- The Light Years is the first in the 4 book series.

Both series take place in England between the world wars.

Date Posted: 5/31/2008 8:21 PM ET
Member Since: 4/12/2008
Posts: 10
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I love the Psychic Eye series by Victoria Laurie. 

Date Posted: 5/31/2008 10:14 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2007
Posts: 2,408
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I have enjoyed the Fever Devilin series by Phillip DePoy but I don't know many who have read these books. It goes without saying that I am a huge fan of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett series and Craig Johnson's (I met Craig today!) Walt Longmire series.
Date Posted: 6/9/2008 3:52 PM ET
Member Since: 9/2/2005
Posts: 395
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Monkeewrench series by P J Tracy.  Great books although they need to write more! 

Date Posted: 6/9/2008 5:27 PM ET
Member Since: 8/11/2006
Posts: 6,597
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Bookmonkey, I read and thoroughly enjoyed the Hitchcock Sewell series by Tim Cockey. Was SO disappointed when Cockey decided to give Hitch a "break." Hopefully, Hitch and Aunt Billie will return one day. Their exploits in and around the funeral home/mortuary are hilarious!

Date Posted: 6/9/2008 8:33 PM ET
Member Since: 12/26/2005
Posts: 12,167
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Adding a "me too" to what others have already said, the Margaret Maron and F. Paul Wilson series are two of my all time favorites.  Wildly different from one another, but both wonderful in their own way. 

I'll also put in another vote for the C.J. Box series and add from my own head:

Robert Crais' Elvis Cole series, which begins with The Monkey's Raincoat.  Great private eye series with a good bit of (often dark) humor.

Andrew Vachss' Burke series, which begins with Flood.  Dark, dark, dark with extra grit.  :)   Vachss is definitely not for the faint of heart, but I really like these books.  I'm about halfway through the series now. 

And another of my favorite dark series, Joe R. Lansdale's Hap and Leonard series, which begins with Savage Season.  Also gritty, funny, crude and politically incorrect as all get out.  This is one of those series that one minute I'm asking myself why I enjoy these books and the next I'm laughing like a loon.  Hap is a straight, white, east Texas redneck and Leonard is his gay, black, cowboy best friend...  I heard Lansdale speak at a fiction convention a couple of years ago and he said that far and away the most common question he gets is, "When are you going to write another Hap and Leonard book?"   

And finally a bit less dark, Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak series, beginning with A Cold Day for Murder.  This mystery series is set in Alaska and in addition to good plotting and characters, offers tons of background information on Alaskan history and native culture.   

ETA one more!  Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge series, which begins with A Test of Wills.  This series is set in Great Britain just after WWI.  Inspector Rutledge is a shell shocked former soldier trying to return to his old job at Scotland Yard.  Good mysteries, but Rutledge's tortured character is really what makes these books tick.

Last Edited on: 6/9/08 8:38 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 6/10/2008 1:45 PM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2005
Posts: 1,563
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Thanks for the continuing suggestions everyone! I'm putting a dent in my credits for sure!

Crystal, I agree about the Monkeewrench series... great reads, but they definitely need a new one! And hopefully the next one will get the Monkeewrench staff (beyond just Grace) more front-and-center again... love that wacky cast of characters!

Anna, I too was disappointed when Cockey put Hitch and the gang on vacation. I did read the first of his new series, Speak of the Devil (written as Richard Hawke), and did enjoy it.

Cindy, the Elvis Cole series is one of my all time favorites! I'm especially fond of the joe Pike character and therefore was thrilled with both LA Requiem and The Watchman. I'd also been wavering on trying the Burke series, but considering your mention of Elvis Cole (how can anyone who likes that series have bad judgment? <grin>) I think I'll give it a try! The Hap & Leonard and Kate Shugak series sound intriguing as well. Thanks!

Subject: Lesser knowns
Date Posted: 6/10/2008 3:27 PM ET
Member Since: 6/4/2008
Posts: 16
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I don't know if you're really into Science Fiction or not, but a good science fiction mystery series (although they are classified as "horror") is the Anita Blake series my Laurell K Hamilton. It starts with the book "Guilty Pleasures." There are currently 16 books in all... but they get a little weird near the end, however, once you're hooked, you're hooked!



Date Posted: 6/10/2008 3:44 PM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2005
Posts: 1,563
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Ok, I scoped those out and they definitely sound bizarre... in an intriguing-will-probably-try-at-least-one-of-them kind of way. ;-)

Date Posted: 6/10/2008 9:35 PM ET
Member Since: 12/26/2005
Posts: 12,167
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BookMonkey, the Burke series is exponentially darker than the Elvis Cole series, but still very, very good.  :)

And count me in as a big fan of the first nine Anita Blake books.  Really disliked the next five, which in my opinion, lacked much in the way of plot.  Last year's release, The Harlequin, was leaning back towards the "old" Anita a bit and I hear the same about the new one, so I'm hopeful.  

Date Posted: 6/11/2008 8:02 AM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2005
Posts: 1,563
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Dark is good... I can do dark. ;-)

Date Posted: 6/11/2008 9:04 AM ET
Member Since: 11/10/2006
Posts: 2,994
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Patricia Moyes wrote a series I enjoy, mysteries with a British detective, Henry Tibbett. His wife, Emily, gets involved in most of his cases to varying degrees.     http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/M_Authors/Moyes_Patricia.html


Also, Sally Wright has a series set in the 1960's featuring Ben Reese who is a historian working at an Ohio university.    http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/W_Authors/Wright_Sally-S.html


I enjoy mysteries set before all the modern day conveniences (cell phones, etc) where the detecitve has to use their mind more than a computer to solve the case.

Date Posted: 6/11/2008 5:47 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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I've mentioned this series here before, but Barbara Hambly's mystery series about Benjamin January is terrific. January is a free black man in 1830's New Orleans society, and the details about life at that time are really incredible. The first book is A Free Man of Color.

I'm also a big fan of the Charles Todd/Ian Rutledge books.

Still talking mysteries, Jane Langton has written a huge stack (I should know, I have the whole stack!) of Homer Kelly mysteries. Kelly is a former district attorney turned college professor and he and his wife Mary (also a professor) are really terrific characters. The books are a little different in that you often know all or part of the solution from the start, and they take place in all different sort of locales and situations. I can't describe how intelligent and erudite and gently humorous these books are! The first is The Transcendental Murders, which was written in 1964...then she didn't write any more till several years later, I think. So the first is good, but then she really hits her stride.

Jane Haddam writes a mystery series about Gideon Oliver, a former FBI man who's retired to his old Armenian Philadelphia neighborhood. The first umpteen book in the series each had a different holiday theme, and then she changed the focus and made them more straightforward, a little darker. I like the holiday books best, myself. The first is Not a Creature Was Stirring.

I'm also a big fan of Ngaio Marsh, who wrote mysteries about Inspector Roderick Alleyn from the 1930s to the 1970s...I like the early books best. The first book wasn't that great, and you can skip it without missing a thing, IMO, but the second is terrific--Artists in Jeopardy. My fave is Death and the Dancing Footman.

Last Edited on: 6/11/08 5:50 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/14/2008 5:36 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
Posts: 5,510
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Oh, my!  The Abel Jones series by Owen Perry is wonderful!  And, you absolutely do not have to be a Civil War afficinado.  It helps, though.  Great post, Les, and I too, could not have described it with justice.  I know, I've tried here before and fallen short.  I would add though, Abel Jones, at times, is a pompous little shit!  And he knows it.  That is what makes these books so darn funny, and page-turning!

Even the author's little Christmas books of CW short stories are touching. 


Otherwise, I don't think I've read a single other series listed here!

Last Edited on: 6/14/08 5:37 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/17/2008 12:07 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
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I just finished the last of the Elizabeth Chase mysteries by Martha C. Lawrence. Elizabeth Chase is a psychic PI. She has a PhD in psychology and parapsychology from Stanford and is a fully licensed PI. The psychic stuff is blended nicely in with good old-fashioned detective work. There are a lot of great side characters as well.

The books in order are:

Murder in Scorpio

The Cold Heart of Capricorn

Aquarius Descending

Pisces Rising

Ashes of Aries

It is important to read the books in order because there are spoilers in later books. For some reason, she has stopped writing. There was supposed to be a Taurus book, but it was never released.