Whether you are new to series crime fiction and wondering which author to commit to first, or are a veteran looking for suggestions, below is a list of 10 favorite authors and their series for your consideration. While it is possible to read any of the books in these series out of order and still enjoy them, they are more fun and satisfying to read sequentially, especially when the main characters grow and change over the course of their fictional lives. Some of the titles in these series may not be included in our catalog but should be available in one format or another through MARINA, our inter-system library loan portal. Accompanying every entry is the cover art for the first book in each series mentioned with a link to get access to that title.
Let’s get started….
One of the most literate and humorous writers of the crime genre, Sandford has you follow the career of Lucas Davenport from police officer to BCA agent to U.S. Marshall, while spinning off an equally engaging series with the character of lawman Virgil Flowers. Intelligently plotted, Sandford’s stories never disappoint, and while Davenport is a flawed, tough sort who is always ready for a fight, Flowers is nearly the opposite, with a laid-back, easy-going nature that causes him to avoid violence as much as he can (and which makes him sneak off to go fishing so often he’s regularly reprimanded by his superiors). Both are top picks for anyone looking to dive into a crime series.
Another author with more than one series, Michael Connelly introduces us to Harry Bosch (born Hieronymus Bosch, namesake of the 15th century Dutch painter) — son of a prostitute, survivor of a series of orphanages and foster families, veteran of the Vietnam War — who comes with more than his fair share of baggage. A loose cannon in the LAPD, his success at solving homicides is frequently tempered by his tendency to conduct his policing activities in such a way as to attract the attention of the Internal Affairs Department. Bosch’s half-brother, Mickey Haller (perhaps familiar to most audiences through his portrayal by Matthew McConaughey in The Lincoln Lawyer) appears in his own series as a defense attorney who occasionally bumps heads with Bosch. While Bosch might step over the line to bring criminals to justice, Haller defends the not-always-so-innocent, which can saddle him with his own unique set of problems.
Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series is set in Los Angeles. A child psychologist by trade, Delaware often acts as a “consultant” on Detective Milo Sturgis’s murder cases. In a (mostly) stable relationship with the fascinating Robin Castagna, an extremely talented designer who builds custom-made guitars, Delaware is a refreshingly compassionate addition to series crime fiction. Sensitive to those he comes into contact with, a sensitivity frequently on display whenever he interacts with his French bulldog, Alex Delaware is a nice break from your typical hard-bitten detective.
Taking us away from urban life, Cork O’Connor, part Irish, part Ojibwe, lives in a remote part of northern Minnesota. Instead of dark alleys and tall buildings, danger lurks in the wilderness that surrounds him. Once a cop in Chicago, then a sheriff in Minnesota, then a P.I., O’Connor is frequently turned to for his skills at hunting down murderers and missing people. Full of rich detail and very atmospheric, if you are looking for mystery stories where Mother Nature frequently has a role to play, you can’t go wrong with this series.
Creating one of the most snarky private detectives in all of crime literature, Robert Crais gives us Elvis Cole of the Elvis Cole Detective Agency. Yes, he was named after that Elvis. Alongside a silent partner (literally silent – Joe Pike is not much of one for conversation) Elvis doesn’t take life too seriously. Until he’s forced to. With a Pinocchio wall clock in his office whose eyes sweep side to side to its tick-tock rhythm, you might, at first glance, make the mistake of thinking of Crais’s stories as lightweight. They are not. Mixed in with the humor are very serious, complex, sometimes graphically brutal situations. If you are looking for unique, Elvis Cole is your man.
Jack Swyteck is a Miami trial lawyer whose courtroom skills make for riveting reading. Grippando, himself a lawyer with much courtroom experience, lends verisimilitude to each and every Swyteck case. Jack frequently conducts his own investigations into the circumstances surrounding his clients’ troubles, often placing himself in danger. The 16th Swyteck novel, The Big Lie, a story that revolves around the potential manipulation of the Electoral College, is particularly topical considering the politically charged atmosphere surrounding this year’s presidential election.
John D. MacDonald
Another author whose stories are set in Florida, MacDonald passed away in 1986 but left behind a legacy to be envied by today’s crime writers in the form of a series featuring the character of Travis McGhee. McGhee does not label himself as a private detective — instead calling himself a salvage consultant — but he often operates in that capacity. Living aboard a houseboat called The Busted Flush, McGhee does not advertise but acquires clients principally through word of mouth, only working when he absolutely has to. A thoroughly likeable character imbued with a sense of honor and integrity, McGhee may strike some as an old-fashioned “type” in the sense that he comes across as having the ladykiller kind of appeal of a James Bond. Nevertheless, MacDonald is literate and a keen observer of Florida life, and his suspenseful McGhee books can genuinely be classified as “page turners,” which may explain why more than a few of his works have been turned into screenplays for both television and film.
If you are hesitant to commit yourself to a long series, try Hosp’s four books featuring Scott Finn. Finn is a Boston lawyer who, in the first entry of the series, is accused of murdering a former girlfriend. David Hosp, a lawyer himself who has done pro bono work throughout his career and frequently fought for the underdog, shows through his treatment of Finn and Finn’s interaction with clients a character who reflects his own attitude toward life and the law. As an aside, David Hosp’s pro bono efforts include work for the Boston Public Library. 🙂
Taking a hop across the pond to Yorkshire, England, we encounter Inspector Alan Banks who has left London for the quiet village of Eastvale to escape big city stressors, only to find less peace there than he’d imagined. Along with incorporating romantic tensions between Banks and a fellow officer of the law, and touching on a sometimes testy working relationship with Inspector Richard “Dirty Dick” Burgess, the series includes enough engaging murder and mayhem to keep you occupied. Robinson is excellent at creating sympathetic characters, and the little world Banks has carved out for himself in the countryside lends itself well to these psychological thrillers.
Concluding this list of favorites is Block’s Keller novels. Block is well known for a variety of crime fiction series, but Keller’s is the one that comes at you from out of left field. For that reason it has been chosen as the perfect series to end on. On the surface John Keller is an ordinary man whose main idiosyncrasy is an obsession with stamp collecting. But that’s just on the surface. Keller is a hit man for hire. To describe a hit man as sometimes lovable, sometimes hilarious may seem odd, but that’s Keller. Over the course of these novels, whenever he’s not on the job he’s helping neighbors, or falling in love, or busy raising a family. His contracts always involve mystery and suspense and, not surprisingly, an unexpected complexity that takes him by surprise and often threatens to end his career. Permanently.