Monday, March 9, 2009

The Scene is Boston

Although you might not think it, Boston (Mass.) is a popular location for crime fiction. Maybe it’s the curious mixture of a city steeped in both colonial and ethnic history and the modern building explosion currently going on, that includes such engineering marvels (or misadventures, depending on your point of view) as the “Big Dig” and the TD BankNorth Garden, new home of the Boston Celtics and Bruins.

Whatever it is, there is some really good private eye and detective fiction set in that city of contrasts. Here are some of the best.

Jessica Conant-Park (author of the Cat Lover’s and Dog Lover’s mystery series) and her daughter, Susan Conant, have combined to create the Gourmet Girl, aka Chloe Carter, a boy-crazy 20 year old gourmand who lives in Brighton (a sub-division of Boston). This series contains four titles so far,beginning with Steamed (2006), and has been referred to as a “scrumptious cozy.”

Linda Barnes writes about Carlotta Carlyle – a former Boston cop who works part-time as an investigator and part-time as a Boston cabbie. The flavor of Carlyle’s Boston is very different from the coziness of the Gourmet Girl’s locale. Carlyle and Barnes have been around for a while and seen and done a lot. Barnes began her series with Trouble of Fools (1999) and is up to entry number 12, Lie Down with the Devil (2008).

The master of Boston private investigators is Robert B. Parker. His series starring Spenser was, for a while, a television show starring Robert Urich (as Spenser), Avery Brooks – of Star Trek fame – (as Hawk) and Barbara Stock (as Susan Silverman). The books (as is sometimes the case) are much better than the TV series and Parker, who began with The Godulf Manuscript in 1973, is still writing them. He has even added several more series and characters to his repertoire. I still like the original series best and truly enjoy a good visit with Spenser, Hawk and Susan. My favorite titles from this series are Mortal Stakes (about the Red Sox) and A Catskill Eagle.

Other folks who write detective or thriller fiction with a Boston background are: Robin Cook who writes medical mysteries with a strong thriller element and Tess Gerritsen, whose character, Jane Rizzoli is a Boston-based police detective.

Finally, Dennis LeHane (author of Mystic River) began his writing career with a duo of Boston-based private eyes: Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. The first of this series is entitled A Drink Before the War. These mysteries are carefully crafted and excellent - but not for the faint of heart. Meg



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