I grew up reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys mystery series. Solving puzzles in exciting locales? That's catnip to a problem solver like myself. I traveled to Brussels solely because I wanted to know if the houses would be like what I read in a Nancy Drew book. I enjoyed the books so much as a child that I succumbed to nostalgia and watched the most recent film adaptation of the former. (This act still feels slightly shameful.)
When I hit my mid-teens, I became distracted by the romance genre and cut a wide swath through all the sub-genres: historicals, contemporaries, fantasies, and pseudo-science fiction. As I grew older,
crankiness cynicism set in and I could no longer handle damsels in financial distress (usually of their fathers' making) who needed big, strapping men endowed with large bank accounts to bail them out. For a time, I read only single title thrillers where every villain is a sadistic serial killer and every hero is a moody and suicidal alcoholic. (Of course, I still like to revisit those books every now and then.) After a detour into science fiction, I found my way back to the oddly comfortable realm of the mystery series. It wasn't, however, easy and I had to try a lot of different series before I found the right ones for me.
Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels series by JA Konrath. A heroine who's smart, tough, and knows when to relieve the tension with a joke. She kicks ass without dressing up in movement-restricting black leather. A great cast of supporting characters who are as witty and capable as Jack. These mysteries aren't whodunits but howtocatchems, and they're by turns laugh-out-loud funny and cringe-inducingly violent. Konrath is only planning one more title in the series and I'm not sure how I'm going to cope.
Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. A historical (1884-1923) mystery series set predominantly in Egypt with a heroine who is introduced as the spinster daughter of a reclusive scholar who bequeaths to her a small fortune. After his death, she travels to Egypt where she has a "meet cute" with Radcliffe Emerson, her future husband. The mysteries wouldn't stump a five-year-old, but I loved this series from the first title because of the colorful details that bring Egypt to life (Peters has a PhD in Egyptology) and the equally colorful characters. Amelia is bossy, nosy, witty, and deadly with a parasol--and she owns a utility belt Batman would envy. Emerson is short-tempered, irascible, willing to resort to violence to protect his family, and fully deserving of the sobriquet "Father of Curses." Peters also created complex and entertaining supporting characters and *gasp* allows them to grow, not only in depth but also in years.
What mystery series do you read? Any recommendations? But, please, no knitting, baking, crime-fighting cats, or "adorably" inept sleuths.