Looking to escape the summer heat? A fan of murder? I have recommendations for you!
It occurred to me recently that many of my favorite mystery series are set in cold-weather climates, and that I seem to read these books most often in summer (which is like all of two months long up here) when I’m struggling with boob-sweat and inadequate AC. Maybe this is true for you as well!
All of these books contain graphic violence and most involve discussions or depictions of sexual violence too. Please be warned.
The Kate Burkholder Series by Linda Castillo
Set in rural Ohio, the Kate Burkholder series is perfect for readers who love fish-out-of-water stories. Kate is formerly Amish, having left the community as a teen. Now she’s the Chief of Police in her hometown of Painters Mill. Kate doesn’t quite fit in with the “English” community and she’s not part of the Amish community anymore either. Still she’s forced to navigate both worlds when the body of an Amish girl is found in a snowy field in Sworn to Silence.
I actually read Sworn to Silence on the beach in Mexico while (no lie) I was waiting for Sarah to email me back about whether or not she was interested in my reviews for the site.
There are nine total books in the Kate Burkholder series, and they do include some romance as well (Castillo got her start writing for Harlequin Intrigue).
The Dublin Murder Squad Series by Tana French
There’s a perpetual sense of bleakness and never-ending rain in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. French also manages to incorporate just enough of the weird into her plots that it makes the books almost impossible to put down.
Better to go straight to The Likeness as a start for the series. In The Likeness policewoman Cassie Maddox is called to a murder scene where the victim looks exactly like her, and is carrying ID with the same name Cassie once used for undercover work. Creepy right?
There are six books in the series and they feature a repeating ensemble cast with the main character changing from book to book.
The Chief Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny
Louise Penny’s mysteries are set in Quebec, and should not be read while hungry. There are too many descriptions of café-au-laits, croissants, and perfect glasses of wine.
Set predominantly around the community of Three Pines, this series features a stately Quebecois grandfather as the main character. Chief Inspector Gamache is a quiet, thoughtful man – not a hardboiled cop like the male mystery leads I’m used to.
Penny’s writing is beautiful and evocative and all of her books have a remarkable sense of place. Right now I’m reading A Rule Against Murder ( A | BN | K | G | iB ) where Gamache is vacationing at a lakeside resort, and I swear I can smell the water and the forest. I read A Fatal Grace while on the beach (this time in Costa Rica) and I remember shivering at Penny’s descriptions of a brutal Canadian winter even though it was ninety degrees out.
The Chief Inspector Gamache books I’ve read so far are pretty low on violence, although I’ve heard from other readers that they get more graphic as the series progresses. Right now there are thirteen books in the series, so you can totally binge read.
The Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht Series by Kristina Ohlsson
Kristina Ohlsson has worked as a Counter-Terrorism Office at OSCE (The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe), and has also worked for The Swedish Security Service, The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and The Swedish National Defense College. She brings all of that real-world experience (including women facing sexism in a male-dominated field) into her writing.
The first book in her Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht series features a domestic kidnapping that occurs in the ten minutes a train is delayed at a station. She explores terrorism in the fourth book in the series, Hostage ( A | BN | K | G | iB ), when a bomb is found in the bathroom of a commercial plane flying from Stockholm to New York.
The subject matter of Ohlsson’s books won’t be for everyone, but she delivers some really pulse-pounding stories with a very real world feel.
The Fjallbacka Series by Camilla Lackberg
Set in the small Swedish fishing community of Fjallbacka, this series features a journalist heroine, Erica Flack. The setting here is remote, sometimes desolate, and the type of place where a killer can’t hide in the crowd. Sometimes having murder mysteries set in a small town makes them more terrifying because the idea that your neighbor could be the murderer is very real.
The first book, The Ice Princess, feels a bit slow at the beginning, but builds up to an intense pace. Erica finds her friend, Alex, dead and frozen in a bathtub full of ice, an apparent suicide. Erica, and police detective Patrik Hedstrom, believe the suicide to be staged and begin to look for a killer in their small community.
The tenth book in the series, The Witch, is listed for release this year, but isn’t available for preorder yet.
I’m slowly working my way through both The Dublin Murder Squad and the Chief Inspector Gamache series this summer.
How about you? Do you read cold and chilling murder mystery series? What are some of your favorites?
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