There are dozens and dozens of beloved bestselling detective series out there, from James Patterson to Tana French. Walk into any bookstore and you’re bound to find a few titles you recognize, even if you only dabble in mysteries. But seasoned crime fiction and mystery lovers know that there are lots of great series that aren’t as well-known, but that absolutely deserve attention—and, ideally, a whole weekend to tear through them. There are tons of reasons that some books get lots of attention and some fly under the radar. When it comes to suspense and mystery books, sometimes it’s simply that because so many are published every year, naturally, some don’t catch the public’s fancy, even if they’re great.
Whether you’re a newcomer to crime and suspense books or an avid mystery fan looking for your next surprise favorite, you won’t regret spending some time with underrated detective series. A great place to start is with Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation series. For starters, there are five books, so the series will keep you busy for a while! The first one, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, introduces readers to Ashwin Chopra, a Mumbai detective who’s planning on early retirement after a heart attack. But life gets in the way of his plans, and he’s not man-made for sitting around idle, anyway. First, he stumbles on a case he can’t stop thinking about: the mysterious drowning of a boy that no one but him seems interested in. Then, he’s given a strange retirement gift: a baby elephant, Baby Ganesh, who turns out to be an extraordinary animal. The series follows Ashwin and Baby Ganesh as they work on various cases in and around Mumbai. It’s charming, heartwarming, funny, and quirky—the perfect blend of intriguing mystery and sharp character development.
While some international crime fiction, especially from Scandinavia, has become popular in the U.S., there are also a lot of international series, like Baby Ganesh, that have flown under the radar with U.S. readers. Another one is the Gemma Woodstock series by Australian author Sara Bailey. Readers who enjoy procedurals and like their mysteries a bit darker will definitely want to pick up this series. In the first novel, The Dark Lake, Detective Sargent Gemma Woodstock is unsettled when her old high school classmate is found dead in a lake. Gemma works and lives in a small rural town, and as she delves into the case, she begins to untangle a web of dark secrets about the place she’s lived her whole life. Subsequent books focus on different cases, but all of them feature Bailey’s talent for writing complicated characters.
And if complicated characters with flaws and secrets and messy histories are your thing, Kathleen Kent’s Betty Rhyzyk series is another under-the-radar must-read. The first in the series, The Dime, finds detective Betty Rhyzyk moving from Brooklyn—where she comes from a family of police detectives—to unfamiliar Texas, where she soon gets caught up in a case that’s way more complicated than it first appears. Betty is tough and sure, unafraid and used to taking care of herself. But she’s also dealing with a lot outside of work. She’s trying to balance her career with her relationship with her girlfriend, and she’s grieving the recent death of her uncle. Kent brilliantly blends many action-packed scenes into an emotional story about grief and family.
Another great series starring a complicated woman detective is Sara Blaedel’s Louise Rick series, starting with The Midnight Witness. It hasn’t gotten the same attention other Scandinavian mysteries have received, but it’s a fantastic series, fast and twisty—and there are 10 books translated into English, so it makes for a great reading project! It centers Louise Rick, a take-no-nonsense homicide investigator based in Copenhagen, and her best friend Camilla, a journalist. They make a great crime-solving team, but they get into a lot of danger along the way.
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