Wed
May 2 2012 10:30am

The Top Five Detectives You Wouldn’t Want on Your Tail

Ever Dead Thing by John Connolly, Book 1 in the Charlie Parker SeriesSure, most of us aren’t the serial killers, jewel thieves, or mobsters we read about, but we still wouldn’t want anyone poking their noses into our business. Literature is filled with sleuths we wouldn’t want anywhere near our dirty laundry, but they’re oh so fun to read about. Let’s have a look at the top five I wouldn’t want on my case, should I have done something . . . slightly less than legal.

1. Charlie Parker (The Charlie Parker series by John Connolly)

Charlie’s been through just about the most heartbreak that you could imagine, with the murder of his wife and child. He carries this heartache with him through every case he tackles, and the ghosts of his family always seem to be just outside his line of vision. Charlie is willing to make some hard decisions in order to do the right thing, and his sense of right and wrong almost verges on righteousness.  He will do anything, and I mean anything, to keep those he loves safe, and if a case is brought to his attention that he’s willing to take on, especially one involving a child, watch out, he’s unstoppable.

2. Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series)

I’ve followed L.A. Homicide Detective Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch through nearly 20 books and almost that many cases. Born to a prostitute and orphaned at age 11 when she was killed, Harry grew up in foster and youth homes, where a certain amount of toughness was required just to survive.   Two tours in Vietnam further honed his survival skills and he eventually became a detective with the LAPD.  Harry is one of my favorite detectives.  He is very good at what he does and even though he lacks the swagger of some of the more flashy detectives on the suspense scene , there’s no lack of confidence. Harry is not a perfect man, to be sure, but it’s his flaws that make him so relatable, and readable. Following the series that’s taken Harry through middle age and beyond, death and heartache, and some of the most fascinating mysteries out there, I’m comfortable in saying that criminals would be very, very wise to steer clear of this brilliant bulldog of a detective.
 

The Blue Hour by T. Jefferson Parker, Book 1 in the Merci Rayborn series3. Merci Rayborn (T. Jefferson Parker’s The Blue Hour, Red Light, and Black Water)

You didn’t think I forgot the girls, did you? Merci Rayborn makes her first appearance in The Blue Hour by T. Jefferson Parker, when veteran homicide detective Tim Hess takes brand-new detective Merci under his wing as they follow the trail of a brutal serial killer. He doesn’t count on Merci being so bold, brash, and determined. Merci is carrying some baggage, to be sure, but it’s a big part of what drives her. She’s a strong, wounded, very tough woman in a man’s world, and she handles it with bravery and grace.  Criminals beware, if Merci’s on your trail, you’re in serious trouble.
 

4. Jacqueline (Jack) Daniels (J.A. Konrath’s Jack Daniels series)

On a bit of a lighter note, I couldn’t forget the awesome Lieutenant Jack Daniels. When the series starts, Jack is firmly into middle age and her ability to keep boyfriends around is not one of her strengths. Bad things keep happening to them because of her job, but Jack loves her job. Catching killers is what she does, and she’s damn good at it. Her friendship with her portly partner Herb is a highlight of this series, and for the longest time, I thought that J.A. Konrath was a woman, because he writes Jack so well. Jack’s adventures are a wonderful mix of the terrifying and the absurd and you’ll laugh just as much as you cringe.  Jack is one tough cookie for whom failure is not an option.
 

The Fear In Yesterday’s Rings by George C. Chesbro, Book 10 in the Mongo Adventures5. Dr. Robert (Mongo) Fredrickson, PI (Mongo mystery series by George C. Chesbro)

I wanted to end the list with one of my favorite detectives of all time. Shadow of a Broken Man was published in 1977 and featured former circus performer, and dwarf, Robert (Mongo) Fredrickson. Now a professor of criminology at New York University, he’s also a PI, and the cases he takes on are usually a little left of center. His brother Garth, whom he adores, is a nearly perfect physical specimen of a man, and Mongo is always painfully aware of their physical differences. It’s one of the things that drives him in every case he takes on. Brilliant and constantly underestimated, I fell in love with Mongo from page one of Shadow of a Broken Man, and proceeded to get my hands on each subsequent novel as soon as I could. This was one of the first series (that I know of) to weave in supernatural elements within a crime procedural, and Mongo’s cases are nothing short of fascinating.  Mongo is an enormous force to be reckoned with, in spite of his diminutive size, and his humanity and compassion are a cornerstone of the series. Sadly, Mr. Chesbro passed away in 2008, but he gave us 15 Mongo books (and more.) His books are now back in print, and Mongo is a must read for all mystery/crime fans. I can’t recommend this series, and this astonishing detective, highly enough.

Which fictional detectives would you not want tracking you?


Kristin Centorcelli reviews books at mybookishways.com, loves a good mystery, and is a huge fan of boxed wine. You can also follow her at @mybookishways.

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12 comments
Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
Wow! I haven't read any of these books, and they all look good. If I'm a noir fan, and like Jo Nesbo, James Sallis, and Asa Larsson, which of these would make the best impression?
Kristin Centorcelli
2. MyBookishWays
@MFrampton-I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read anything (yet) by the three authors you listed (I know, I know), BUT, I'm thinkin' you can't go wrong with the Charlie Parker series. Very atmospheric and intense at times.
Clare Toohey
3. clare2e
Yay John Connolly!

And also, to me, a clean, evocative style that hints in sketched outlines, rather than declaring, is part of what appeals in the Nordic crime. If you like that, T. Jefferson Parker really does what I'm suddenly hearing called "California noir" exquisitely. He's been doing it for longer than the label, and his Merci Raybourn series, his Charlie Hoods, or his standalones are all worthwhile. IMO, it's compulsively readable prose. Hop on for a paragraph and you're along for the whole ride.

Kristin- I LOVE that you mentioned Mongo! When I read my first, I wondered where he'd been all my life. Something always very special about these to me.
Kristin Centorcelli
4. MyBookishWays
@clare2e YAY!! Another Mongo fan! Very, very awesome. I usually feel like I'm the only one that knows about this wonderful series.
You perfectly summed up T. Jefferson Parker's work, too! "California noir" definitely describes it. I'd love to have more Merci...
5. Lakis Fourouklas
Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole, Ian Rankin's John Rebus, Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano. Harry Bosch is at the top of my list as well.
Kristin Centorcelli
6. MyBookishWays
@Lakis-I've been eyeing up the John Rebus series forever...
Deborah Lacy
7. DeborahLacy
Great list. I would add Elizabeth George's Barbara Havers.
Kristin Centorcelli
8. MyBookishWays
@DeborahLacy Another author that I've heard wonderful things about!!
Terrie Farley Moran
9. Terrie
Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor, provided he was tracking me all around Galway City.
Kristin Centorcelli
10. MyBookishWays
@Terrie The first book in the Ken Bruen series is on my TBR...may need to move that one up!!
Jay Westbrook
11. jewestbrook
How can you leave John Sanford's Lucas Davenport off this list? He's like a pitbull. Once he has his teeth in a case, he does not let go until the bad guy is dead or wishing he was.
Karen Terry
12. bblol65
I wouldn't want Harry Bosch after me, because he doesn't give up no matter the cost.
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