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Friday, December 7, 2012

Murder at the Hospital OR Unconventional Sleuths

This holiday season, someone on my gift list will receive the latest Lenny Moss mystery, even though he doesn't read many mysteries. Am I one of those annoying gift givers who buys the recipient not what he wants but what I like? I hope not, although I'll cop to buying the occasional book for my niece when she wasn't a big reader. (Reading is too important and fun to miss out on. And I always got her something else, too!)

So why am I purchasing No Place to Be Sick, by Timothy Sheard, for a family member who only occasionally reads mysteries?  Why did I give this family member, who is interested in all things union and labor history and who will henceforth be referred to as Union Man, his first Lenny Moss mystery a few holidays back, which he loved and requested more of?

The answer lies in the story's hero and subject matter. The hero & crime solver, Lenny Moss, is a custodian, and, of greater interest to Union Man, a union representative. So the books, like every good mystery, aren't just about who killed whom. They weave labor issues, such as harassment of workers, into the stories. For example, in the first book, This Won't Hurt a Bit, a laundry worker at a large university hospital is accused of murdering a doctor. Lenny and his co-workers at the hospital, however, believe the man is innocent, and together they undertake their own investigation into the murder.

The heroes of mysteries these days are no longer just private eyes and police detectives. They are janitors and cleaning women, reporters, herbalists, teachers, librarians and more. Whatever your interests, you can likely find a mystery set in your milieu, and there are even books to help you find your mystery match, such as Make Mine a Mystery: A Readers' Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction. The book, which you can view at the Readers' Services desk on the third floor, contains a subject index that goes from Aborigine-Australia to Zoo. Some subjects included are:

Aquariums
HMOs (for those who have ever been frustrated with an HMO)
Organs
Parrots
Shipboard (for those who can't afford to take a cruise)
Railroads (love this one!)
Theater (for those who have ever wanted to kill a director or theater diva)

Another helpful book is What Mystery Do I Read Next, which includes both time period and  major character indexes (activist, aged person, animal trainer, etc). Want personalized suggestions? Ask the helpful staff at the 3rd floor Readers' Services desk.

What's your favorite mystery or series featuring an amateur or unconventional sleuth? Do you have a favorite setting or locale? Do books make good gifts?

6 comments:

Linda K. said...

One of my favorite unconventional sleuths is Hannah Swensen in her cold, snowy Minnesota Cookie Jar Shop setting. Written by Joanne Fluke these mysteries feature great cookie recipes. As is typical with amateur sleuths, Hannah always seems to be one step ahead of the police in solving the crime. I gave a friend a copy of the Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder along with a dozen of the title cookies. It was a hit!

Maggie K. said...

Of course my favorite mystery heroes are of the feline persuasion. Koko and Yum Yum are the Siamese stars of Lilian Jackson Braun's Cat Who series. Mrs. Murphy saves the day in Rita Mae Brown's books, and Midnight Louie stalks the Vegas strip in Carole Nelson Douglas's colorful mysteries. You can bet the people in these books couldn't begin to solve the mystery without their faithful, feisty, feline friends. Meow!

Laura A. said...

Thanks for posting! Giving the Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder along with the cookies is a lovely idea. That said, I fear that reading books with cookie recipes would make me hungry and bring out my inner cookie monster: "me want cookie!"

Anonymous said...

Dan L. here...as far as "unconventional" sleuths go, nobody tops Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden; a Chicago-based private investigator, his other business is being a Wizard-for-hire who advertises in the Yellow Pages.

His next book, "Cold Days", is the 14th book in the "Dresden Files" series of books, but not his 14th adventure; a full list (including short stories) can be found at www.jim-butcher.com

Anonymous said...

Love that Chicago Wizard. Thanks for the reminder. It's been a while since I had my wizard fix.

Laura A. said...

I've heard wonderful things about The Dresden Files from co-workers and patrons alike. Yet another author to add to my to-read list, particularly since I have a soft spot for novels set in Chicago.

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