I’ve been expanding my reading list over the last year. Up to the point I joined Sisters in Crime and started hanging out with fellow writers, I only read mysteries within my preferred genre: humorous cozies. Then, after meeting Simon Wood, then president of the Sisters in Crime NorCal chapter, I decided I really needed to give his book, PAY THE PIPER a try. I also picked up a copy of TUNNELS by Michelle Gagnon. Both are definitely NOT cozy (the books, that is. Simon and Michelle are both kinda cute and cozy); they are disturbing psychological and sometimes graphically horrific thrillers. But despite the lack of food and clothing description and amateur sleuths who date cops, I myself enthralled by both books. Rather like the day when I was 10 or so and my taste buds suddenly decided they LIKED lasagna and cheesecake, I found I suddenly had a newfound appreciation for this hard-edged style of mystery thriller. I picked up several of the Irene Kelly mysteries by Jan Burke, both of whom I’d met at Left Coast Crime (and yes, I KNOW I haven’t finished writing about my experiences there yet…picture me shuffling my feet and hanging my head in shame.) Both were extremely nice and personable, although Jan Burke seemed almost shyer than I was when I talked to her – as are Simon and Michelle.
All of these books have several things in common as well: tons of suspense, believably flawed and interesting heroes/heroines, twisted villains, and, as mentioned earlier, they are REALLY disturbing in parts. They also wouldn’t allow me to my usual juggling two or three books at a time (I tend to keep one in the bathroom, one on the bedside table, and one in my purse for travel) routine. OH no, these books wouldn’t allow competition. “Put that friggin’ cozy mystery down, you!” They wanted to be read all the way through without interruption (I just read Michelle’s second book, BONEYARD and carried it with me everywhere, including to the bathroom at work).
I really wanted each and everyone of these books to end well, without losing any of the main or subsidiary characters I’d become fond during the read, and I had to continually stop myself from flipping to the last chapter to make sure I wasn’t going to be VERY upset with the authors. I really hate getting attached to characters only to have them die horribly on me. As to whether or not this happens in any of the books mentioned, I’m not gonna say. I will just say that despite whatever fates these authors decided on for their characters, I found their books compelling enough to read more of them. Not that I’m forswearing my cozies! I’m just expanding my literary taste buds.